Fall Convocation 2014

Principal Suzanne Fortier
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bienvenue aux finissants de 2014. Welcome to the graduating class of 2014. I am joined here today by your families and friends, by our new Chancellor, the Chair of the Board, our Chancellor Emerita, our Governors Emeriti, Principal Emerita, by our distinguished honourary degree recipient, award recipients, by special guests and esteemed colleagues. We are here, together, to express how proud we are of you and of everything that has brought you here today.

C’est pour moi un immense bonheur de vous féliciter pour vos réalisations et votre persévérance. Savour today. Enjoy it. Celebrate. I also ask that you take a moment to remember all the people who have supported you in your studies. Today is a special day for them as well.

Please stand up and turn around to give them a big round of applauses!

Today is also bittersweet. You may not believe me now, but I think you are going to miss McGill and going to classes. Maybe not just yet but believe me it will come.

I say this because one of the things I did returning to my alma mater last year was to attend classes.  They were wonderful.  In fact, I could not wait for summer to be over so that I could return to one of my favourites: the Master Voice class in the Schulich School of Music. 

On the last day of class last Spring, the professor said to me, “You have been here so often, it is like you are one of the students.”

I said I did not think that was fair to the students.  After all, I was just listening, enjoying the students’ performances, not doing any work.

“And in any case,” I told him, “you would not want me to sing!”

He surprised me with what he said next.  He asked me, “Can you breathe?”

“Yes.” I answered.

“If you can breathe,” he said, “you can sing.”

Don’t worry, I am not planning to sing right now.

But I love that idea: If you can breathe, you can sing.  If you can breathe, you have a voice.

And this is my most important advice to you, Class of 2014.

You have a voice.  Use it.

You have a mind that knows how to learn. You have determination and you have talent. You have ideas of your own. 

Now use your voice to take those gifts into the world. Use your voice to share your knowledge with others. Use your voice to share their knowledge. Use your voice to ask questions. Use your voice to stand up for what you believe in. Use your voice to help other people find their voices.

We are fortunate to have some excellent role models, today’s honorary doctorate recipients, here with us today. For more than 40 years, Robert Winsor, has used his voice to help students, particularly athletes at McGill, where he himself was once a star football player.  As a tireless volunteer, Marvin Corber has used his voice, dedication and vision to improving education and health care in Montreal.  Our new Chancellor, the Honorable Michael Meighen made his voice, and the voices of people across Canada, heard during his 21 years in the Senate and beyond—and, by teaming with another powerful voice, his wife Kelly, he has shown a deep commitment to youth at risk and to the transformative  powers of education and research.  We are grateful and thrilled that they will use their voice to speak about and on behalf of McGill University.

I am not sure if any of them plan to sing for us today, but they certainly know how to use their voices to make a better world.

Vous vous joignez aujourd’hui à la grande chorale des diplômés de McGill.

Si votre alma mater vous manque, revenez le plus souvent possible, les portes de McGill vous seront grandes ouvertes.  McGill sera toujours votre maison.

Please keep in touch. I look forward to hearing all of your voices in the days and years ahead.


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