I’ve just returned from an afternoon of celebration. Convocation (calling together) for the University of Saskatchewan, and specifically for my own College of Education this afternoon. What a day!
I know there are many of you who don’t buy into the whole mediaeval pageantry. I get it. The silly costumes, the formality, the ponderous pace. It all seems a little pretentious and self-aggrandizing, doesn’t it?
But hold off before you drop the guillotine on us. There’s some good stuff happening here.
I had the wonderful experience of handing 300 diplomas to our B.Ed. graduates today. They were moved; I was over the moon. Picture it: they walked across a veeerrrrryyy long stage in front of an audience numbering 2500, most for the first and only time of their lives. I was waiting at the end of their walk with their diplomas, the paper punctuation marks of a lot of work and investment for each and every one of them. I made a point of trying to make that moment special for them – calling them by name, mentioning their home towns (thanks Registrar!), and most importantly looking them dead in the eyes and letting them know I meant it. I did. It was a proud moment for them, but it was also a proud moment we shared.
And it’s an incredibly proud moment for an institution under fire, some of it deserved. We, as a university (and I mean this collectively), need to rise up. The university is one of the most enduring institutions on the planet. Why the university (only churches seem to be so deeply embedded in our civilizations)? And both universities and religion have endured for centuries? Why? Because at their core, universities and churches search for truth – in very different places—but truth, nonetheless. What a precious thing! Truth?
Convocation celebrates this search for truth every time a bunch of aging professors and hopeful new graduates populate the stage. Let’s not forget that. I’m aware of the flaws in the system and I know the institution is changing irrevocably. But give me a minute and a little space, and let me enjoy a moment that transcends centuries
And here are the ETAD graduates who join our proud and growing tradition today:
Janelle Helfrick Martin
Allison Treble (who holds the record for births during a program of study)
And John Wright (honourary ETAD member).
Congratulations to our friends, our colleagues. Let’s celebrate the mystery of what a university means together.