Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Dr. Daniel R. Woolf

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Dr. Daniel R. Woolf

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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2018 Spring Convocation Address

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Speech delivered May 24, 2018 at 10 a.m. Faculty of Education 


Thank you, Chancellor.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome. Bonjour, tout le monde, et bienvenu.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge our presence today on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe peoples. We remember and honour the native peoples on whose traditional land Queen’s University was built and flourished.

I am delighted to welcome all of you to Queen’s today—to family and friends of our graduating class, our faculty, distinguished guests, and our very happy graduands: the Class of 2018!

It is always a pleasure to celebrate convocation and your achievements and, as I always say at these occasions, you worked hard to get into Queen’s and you worked even harder to get out.

I want to thank you for that hard work, because it has helped our Queen’s and Kingston communities. An example of this was the “Queen’s Community Cupboard” project led by the Technological Education students that will open in Duncan McArthur next month. You worked to create a space where non-perishable food items and new school supplies can be donated and shared with the community, which is a wonderful legacy to impart. Thank you. 

I know that many of you also enjoyed the public lecture by Kevin Lamoureux hosted by the Faculty of Education in January. Kevin is the Education Lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and spoke about the role of public schools in advancing the calls to action from the truth and reconciliation report, a topic of critical importance not only to our school but all schools in the area.

These examples of public outreach and involvement in our community are inspiring, and I hope have helped enrich your experience here at Queen’s.

When you think about the kinds of life experiences one can have, certainly graduation is a big one. Another is moving to a new location.

I recently became a country dweller. We moved to Yarker earlier this month after living in downtown Kingston for the past 9 years. My wife and I are really enjoying this new lifestyle but it has added a new element to my day: a 30- to 40-minute commute. So, I’ve been experimenting with different routes to get to work. On one of those trips, I passed a church that had a sign outside it saying, “The important things in life are not things.”

Why is it that churches have signs like these outside of them? I saw a picture of one once that had on the first line, “Sermon this week: Do you know what hell is?” and on the second line it said with enthusiasm, “Come hear our new organist!” You can find some that are really clever and funny, intentional or not.

But, back to this particular sign. The thought lingered in my head for a while after I passed it - the important things in life are not things. And, it struck me that while I believe everyone here today would agree completely with the sentiment, it seems that often I find people don’t always follow this credo.

Life seems to be more and more about acquiring things. Often, those things are gadgets and small devices that can add tremendous value to our lives, but can also create a barrier as we live our lives and experiences behind a tiny six-inch screen.

The important things in life are not things. So what are they? They’re the people most important to us. They’re experiences. They’re memories. They’re moments.

I am sure you all have your favourite memories in your head you can recall at any time. Those memories can bring you joy, or pain, and are burned into your subconscious to become part of who you are.

Today—right now, in fact—I want you to think about your best Queen’s moments. Was it that time you nailed a presentation you spent weeks preparing? Was it moments in conversation with a professor on a topic you were struggling to understand? Or, was it the feeling of elation and relief as you handed in your final exam? Was it at an orientation week event where you met your best friend? Was it intentional? Did it surprise or scare you? What did it help you learn about yourself?

Now that these moments and memories are flooding back in your mind, I want you to hold on to those as you cross the stage here today. If we don’t celebrate and cherish the moments we’ve been given, and recognize them when they’re happening, the moments will pass us by and be lost forever.

For many of you, today—now—this moment—is what you’ve been working toward and for some of you, this was the vision you set for yourself to help get you through the hardest and longest days. This is the moment for which you’ve sacrificed so much, and worked so hard to achieve.

And, this is a moment for your family and friends. Of course it will mean something different to each of them, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to acknowledge the important role they had in creating this moment.

So, I hope you leave Queen’s gaining more than you expected when you began this journey. You came here expecting to earn a degree, develop expertise, gain experience, and, meet new people. And I hope you leave this stage today not only with all of that, but with something more. Moments to treasure and hold dear to you for the rest of your long and glorious days. Moments that will outlast the latest gadget or device and live on as the most important things in your life

Now, I know when my moment at the podium is done. I congratulate all of you for reaching this important moment today and wish you the best for a bright and successful future. And, I’m very happy to welcome you as a fellow member of the Queen’s alumni family.

Merci et félicitations! Thank you and congratulations!