May 22, 2014
Congratulations and Farewell
Today marks the beginning of Spring Convocation ceremonies at Queen's. Graduation day ought to be one of the happiest and proudest days in someone's life. To explain the happiness I am referring to, I will use this picture I captured at my brother's graduation from the Faculty of Education here at Queen's, alongside fellow Con-Eddie Alex Love:
Yes, I know this photograph looks like it might have been taken with a potato, but it is quite simply one of the happiest pictures I have ever seen. It is how I hope every graduate will feel on the day that they receive their degree(s). Graduates: you made it. I expect that life, in more than one way and perhaps more than once, has made it feel like this day may never come. Well, you made it. I could not be happier for each and every person who will be graduating from Queen's this year and could not be more honoured to get to share this experience with you. Queen's graduates have a history of taking off and doing incredibly meaningful things in the world. Our alumni, as far as I'm concerned, are among the best in the world. Take a step back and take it all in. Your graduation day, whether it be today, tomorrow, or 3 weeks from now - it's your day. I cannot wait to see what you do with what you have learned from being a Queen's student, both inside and outside of the classroom. My hat is off to all of you. Congratulations.
Today, we begin a new journey together, in a way.
As Rector, this set of convocation ceremonies will certainly be my first. I have had many talks with my predecessor about convocations and about what it means to be a part of such a special moment in so many people's lives. I have the luxury of seeing some of the brightest, most wonderful people in the world at one of their happiest moments. It is such a privilege, and I could not be more excited and humbled by it. I hope that I might be able to provide you with a smile, handshake and/or hug that might, in some way, positively impact your day and convocation experience.
I have had the pleasure of attending two convocation ceremonies at Queen's due to the fact that my brother, Dave, graduated with his B.Ed one year after getting his B.Sc from Queen's. One of the most enjoyable parts of both ceremonies for me, and for everyone packed into Grant Hall, was listening to Chancellor David Dodge address graduates, friends, and family.
I can say without one moment's hesitation that Mr. David Dodge is one of the most brilliantly smart people I have ever met while, at the same time, being one of the most personable, caring, and genuinely kind souls I have come across. My first experience with Mr. Dodge was at my brother's convocation ceremonies. He spoke with such passion and love for Queen's that I thought he might explode. He also happens to be laugh-out-loud funny and made what I anticipated might be a boring and long day anything but. I distinctly remember him addressing everyone in attendance throughout the ceremony. As he sat down on two separate occasions after speaking, one of my parents looked at me and told me that he was "the man", immediately followed by the other doing the same. They simply did not know how else to describe him.
The first time I ever met Mr. Dodge was during Homecoming 2013. That's right - the Chancellor of Queen's took 45 minutes out of his schedule during Homecoming Weekend to sit down and speak with a student who was curious about running for a student leadership position. Our meeting was scheduled for 5:00pm at Summerhill, and I showed up to the front doors of Summerhill at 4:55pm, perhaps slightly terrified (but mostly excited) to meet such an important person. I was given his cellphone number by his administrative assistant just in case something went awry. As it turns out, we were supposed to meet in the Agnes Benidickson House (East Wing) of the building, a wing I did not know existed. As it became apparent to me that I was likely in the wrong place and that something indeed was 'awry' by 5:15pm, I found myself struggling to come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to call the Chancellor of Queen's, 15 minutes after we were supposed to start meeting, on Homecoming Weekend, on his cellphone.
So I called. He picked up on the other end with the friendliest of tones: "Hullo, this is David Dodge! Is this Mike?!" He very patiently and enthusiastically explained to me where he was and how to get there. After all was said and done and I made it to the right part of the building, it was 5:18pm. He greeted me with a very excited handshake and a smile that stretched from one side of his face to the other. I tried to profusely apologize for my tardiness and silliness, but he would hear none of it. The only emotion he felt was excitement - he was excited to be sitting down with a Queen's student, to answer my questions, to help me understand what challenges Queen's was facing, and to offer insight as to what the next several years might look like. I was blown away. Nearly an hour later, we were done speaking and I went on my way. From that day onwards, I completely understood all of the rave reviews I had heard about Mr. Dodge from student leaders, faculty, and administration members alike. His heart is twice the size of his body and his love for Queen's, and for building meaningful connections with the people around him, is unmatched. He taught me a lot about Queen's that day, but he taught me an awful lot more about what it means to lead and have others want to follow.
This will be Chancellor Dodge's last series of convocations - one of his favourite parts of the job. It could not be a greater honour to be able to share the stage with Mr. Dodge while he bids the school he loves, so very dearly, a final farewell as our Chancellor. He will be sorely missed by everyone at our school, and the impact he has had and continues to have on the lives of everyone he comes into contact with will last forever. Thank you, David Dodge, for your unbelievable service to Queen's University, and for taking the time to make so many members of our school community feel at home.
As I look at this photograph (above) of you at your installation as Chancellor, I understand what an important day it was for Queen's. We are so lucky to have you, and the world we live in is a better place with you in it.
See you on stage, Mr. Chancellor.
Princeps Servusque Es,
Photos of David Dodge courtesy of queensu.ca
More photos from the first convocation, including the first ever Rector Installation, will be posted as they become available.