By Jim Hynes
Cue the piper, cue the ceremonial procession, and cue the sunshine.
The grey skies that threatened the first (and only open-air) ceremony of Spring Convocation cleared up just in time, bathing the officers of Convocation, the friends and family of the graduating students, and the new Macdonald Campus grads themselves in warm sunshine as the first skirl of the pipes filled the air. It was a special moment on a special day.
Last Friday afternoon, approximately 250 students from the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences received their degrees in a ceremony that was both a celebration and a call to action. Given that the new grads have earned various degrees in the fields of agriculture and environment, arguably two of the greatest global areas of concern today, the themes of service and responsibility were touched upon a number of times.
“As a parent who has sat on many such occasions where your own family and parents are sitting today, I can assure you that they have never been as proud of you as they are right now,” said outgoing McGill Chancellor Richard Pound, who is presiding over his final Convocations after 10 years of service to the University. “You leave McGill with the advantage of one of the finest educations available on the face of this planet. You enjoy a huge advantage. It is an advantage that deserves to be applied for the good of the world community of which you are part. Not just for personal advancement or benefit,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed in the words of the Convocation Address delivered by Honorary Doctorate recipient Professor Walter P. Falcon, Farnsworth Emeritus Professor of International Agricultural Policy and Deputy Director of the Food Security and Environment Program at Stanford University.
“The world, your world, is a risky place. You knew that when you got up this morning,” he said. “In your personal lives, how risk averse will you be in your choice of vocations? Will you take the easy, the comfortable, the well known? Or will you be bolder? Public service in the name of food security and helping the half of the world that lives on less than $2 a day is a noble calling. I hope some of you, indeed many of you, will rise to that challenge.”
The ceremony also honoured Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Professor Dr. Alice Cherestes, recipient of this year’s Macdonald Campus Award for Teaching Excellence, and featured the presentation of newly named Professor Emerita Harriet V. Kuhnlein, the founding Director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment.
The Valediction was delivered by Marie-Anne Hardy, the recipient of a BSc in Nutritional Sciences.