By Neale McDevitt
When Michael Meighen was sworn in as McGill’s 19th Chancellor at the start of the Oct. 29 Convocation ceremonies by Stuart ‘Kip’ Cobbett, Chairman of McGill’s Board of Governors, the former Senator shook Cobbett’s hand. “I guess I can’t quit now,” he said laughing.
“No,” smiled Cobbett. “You’re in.”
Make no mistake, there is no quit in Meighen, who, after earning his BA from McGill in 1960, went on to a distinguished career as a prominent lawyer, politician and philanthropist. Co-chair of Campaign McGill, Meighen has long supported education. Said Principal Suzanne Fortier in her introduction to the installation ceremony, Meighen “is a great supporter of this University and a tireless champion of education and its transformative power… This is a special moment for us all.”
In his first-ever address to graduating students in his new role as Chancellor, Meighen stressed one quality above all; service – hardly surprising for the grandson of former Prime Minister Arthur Meighen and someone who sat for over 20 years in the Upper House.
“McGill is an institution whose graduates have gone on, like [John] O’Keefe [who was named co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine earlier this month] has, to shape a better Canada and a better world. I ask you to seek to emulate their example in the years ahead,” Meighen told the crowd assembled in Place des Arts’ Salle Wilfrid Pelletier.
Speaking directly to the Class of 2014, the Chancellor evoked Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier (“perhaps the greatest McGill alumnus of all time,” said Meighen). “As for you, who stand today on then threshold of life, with a long horizon open before you,” said Meighen quoting Laurier, “let your aim and purpose in good report or ill, in victory or defeat, be so to live, so to serve, so to do your part to raise even higher the standard of life and living.”
For her part, Principal Fortier picked up the theme of service, imploring graduating students to use what they had learned at McGill to benefit the world. “You have a voice. Use it. You have a mind that knows how to learn. You have a determination and you have talent. You have ideas of your own. Now use your voice to take those gifts into the world,” said Fortier. “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. And use your voice to help other people find their own voices.”
As part of his mandate as Chancellor, Meighen will preside over all convocation ceremonies and will confer all academic degrees to graduating students. Looking upon the Class of 2014, poised to accept their degrees and begin a new phase in their respective lives, Meighen once again spoke of Wilfrid Laurier. “Like you soon will, [Laurier] walked across the stage as a member of a McGill graduating class. And also like you, Laurier was blessed with talents that could have taken him to the top in any number of fields. He could have been wealthy, but he chose public service instead,” said Meighen. “If you do follow Laurier’s advice and take the path of service, and give back to your community while working on your chosen profession, you’ll discover, as he did, that Quebec is worth it, Canada is worth it and the world is worth it.”