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There is no alchemy lurking in the Roddick Gates, but during Convocation the iconic portals symbolize the transformative powers of McGill. Prior to each ceremony, students walk through the columned entrance as they have hundreds of times before, but when they leave they will be forever changed and, if the accomplishments of the university's storied alumni are any indication, so too shall the world into which they pass.
This year's class of more than 6,000 students came to McGill from some of the planet's most exotic locations and from just around the block. Once they were strangers to each other, different in colour, customs and convictions. But although they arrived with wildly different backgrounds, they all possessed a common trait — the overwhelming desire to learn. And learn they have.
Over the past few years, they have studied together, fretted over the same exams, and tossed Frisbees to each other with varying degrees of proficiency. In the classroom, they have both broadened their vision and narrowed their focus. Skills have been honed and built upon, weaknesses identified and shored up. The seeds of distinguished careers have been sown here, now poised to bear their significant fruit.
During Convocation Week, the campus itself undergoes a metamorphosis. Like mushrooms, great white tents have popped up where sunbathers once lay and friendly games of touch football were contested. Parents and grandparents beam with pride and young children chase each other, weaving in and out the forest of robes worn by older siblings and their classmates. Bagpipes herald the next ceremony, celebrating a new group of graduates with traditional pomp and circumstance.
They came here among the very best students in the world, crackling with promise. And while some of that enormous potential has been fulfilled, Convocation marks but the beginning of 6,000 unique journeys of discovery.
Like McGill grads before them, the Class of 2006 will go on to sterling careers as lawyers, educators and musicians. They will fly in space, battle disease and fill our libraries and galleries with art, books and ideas. They will make our planet a greener, safer, more humane place. They first walked through those gates as our wards, but now, they leave our champions.