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An 'On Target' address

Queen’s is reserving its honorary degrees in 2016 for alumni in celebration of the university’s 175th anniversary. Throughout spring convocation, The Gazette will profile all 11 honorary degree recipients and explore how Queen’s has impacted their life and career. 

  • Renowned journalist Ali Velshi (Artsci'94) received an honourary degree on June 7. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Renowned journalist Ali Velshi (Artsci'94) received an honourary degree on June 7. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Ali Velshi (Artsci'94) addresses the graduating class of 2016 on the importance of using the knowledge they have gained to benefit others. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Ali Velshi (Artsci'94) addresses the graduating class of 2016 on the importance of using the knowledge they have gained to benefit others. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Ali Velshi (Artsci'94) is officially granted a Doctorate of Law, honours cause, by Chancellor Jim Leech, as Principal Daniel Woolf and Rector Cam Yung look on. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Ali Velshi (Artsci'94) is officially granted a Doctorate of Law, honours cause, by Chancellor Jim Leech, as Principal Daniel Woolf and Rector Cam Yung look on. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

More than 20 years after graduating from Queen’s University, journalist Ali Velshi (Artsci’94) says the memory that stands out the most was his first day arriving on campus.

[Queen's 175th logo]

On June 7, the former host of “Your Money” and “Ali Velshi on Target” returned to campus to receive an honorary degree at Convocation 2016.

“I came down Division, down University and I realized, as I walked up the stairs at Victoria Hall, that I was walking into the rest of my life,” he says.

In the years that followed, Mr. Velshi received a fellowship to the United States Congress, before later turning to journalism – eventually, leading to his own show on CNN. Covering monumental events such as the financial crisis of 2008, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, he became a household name in news. However, a career in media was never the original plan for Mr. Velshi. He credits his ability to stay flexible to changing circumstances as being a key lesson that he hopes to pass along to the graduating class of 2016.

"It's fine to go in with a plan, it's fine to not have one,” says Mr. Velshi. “I had a pretty good plan. It may have changed‎ four or five times during my time at Queen's and at the end, what I thought was my best plan, is still not how life turned out.”

Mr. Velshi, who previously received the Queen's University Alumni Achievement Award in 2010, says that the honour of receiving an honorary degree, particularly from his alma mater, is still something that hasn’t fully sunk in.

“I’ve spent a good portion of my career where hard work has been accompanied by good fortune, luck and providence,” he says. “I think this is one of those things.”

In his commencement speech, Mr. Velshi drew on the theme of change in the years since his own graduation; from changes in technology to the make-up of the economy itself. He called on the graduating class – predominantly from the departments of Gender Studies and Economics, as well as the School of Environmental Studies – to fulfill their responsibility to their fellow citizens and to use the knowledge they have gained in their studies to solve the most challenging “issues of our time.”

Touching on the global refugee crisis, as well as income and educational inequality, he reminded the graduating class of their obligation to help those in need, stating that “we who have good fortune” have an “obligation to heal the world.”

He concluded his speech by citing Invictus by William Ernest Henley, encouraging the class of 2016 to be the “masters of (their own) fate, and the captains of (their own) soul.”

See more Convocation 2016 stories