StFX, graduates celebrate a milestone

StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin (left) and Vice President Academics, Dr. Kevin Wamsley present the Honourable Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie with an Honorary Doctorate degree.

ANTIGONISH: A new chapter in St. Francis Xavier University history began as its 19th President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Andy Hakin was installed.

“I have been on an unchartered academic journey since I first entered the University of Leicester in the UK as a freshman student in 1981. In the last few months, and in particular today, I feel like since joining St. Francis Xavier University I’ve finally reached my destination,” said Dr. Hakin. “Education transforms live. Go out and get some. I passionately believe in this,” said the StFX president. “I have come to understand that the unlocking of human potential lies in education,” he added. “I feel extremely privileged to serve this university,” President Dr. Hakin said as he expressed his deep appreciation for the confidence placed in him by the StFX Board of the Governors, and the entire community.

Elder Kerry Prosper, StFX’s inaugural Knowledge Keeper, welcomed and congratulated President Dr. Hakin. President Dr. Hakin was emotionally moved when Elder Prosper recognized his Blackfoot name, Iinniowmoowakim. Elder Prosper and President Dr. Hakin then exchanged ceremonial gifts, with Elder Prosper presenting Dr. and Mrs. Hakin with a star blanket and President Dr. Hakin reciprocating, presenting Elder Prosper with a black walnut and maple table made by a StFX alumnus.

In commemorating his installation, President Dr. Hakin announced that copies of the Treaties of Peace and Friendship are now displayed in Mulroney Hall.

Chancellor John Peacock offered congratulations in a video from his home in Montreal.

“I was very much looking forward to congratulating you in person Dr. Hakin as you officially become the 19th President and Vice-Chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University,” stated StFX Chancellor John Peacock. “StFX has been near and dear to my heart since Adrienne and I graduated in 1963 and I am excited for this next chapter in our leadership,” said Chancellor Peacock. “I recall with fondness the day I became Chancellor in the chapel, Dr. Hakin, and I imagine that you feel today as I felt then – excited for the days and years ahead but deeply cognisant of the responsibility I assume.”

Dr. Hakin began the role of President and Vice Chancellor on July 1, 2020 during an unprecedented time in the history of the university. Since the beginning of his tenure, President Dr. Hakin has been challenged with leading a university through a worldwide pandemic.

Due to COVID-19 Nova Scotia Public Health and StFX heath protocols, the installation ceremony was held virtually for the exception of a small stage party, socially distanced, in the MacKay Room, Bloomfield Centre.

Fall Convocation immediately followed the installation, also with a small stage party who conducted convocation while other participants joined by video. Graduates watched via livestream while 240 students from four faculties received undergraduate and graduate degrees.

“Let’s not worry too much about the fact that this year looks different than the proceeding years. That’s how we grow. We adapt, and the ability to adapt is a measurement of our reliance,” said Dr. Hakin who addressed graduates. “Change is not a threat to our traditions or institutions, but rather we embrace it as part of our history. We could not have predicted how impacted we have all been by the pandemic,” added the president. “Those impacts range from the large, small, and often highly individualized.

“Graduates you may feel like you are merrily a passenger within the change around you. But the steps you have taken and prioritized to reach this graduation ceremony have demonstrated that you are not simply affected by change – you can create change. And what’s more traditional to StFX than graduates who step up countless, ready to make their world mark.”

“In a year like this and, by the way, has there ever been a year like this?” stated Chancellor Peacock. “It is tempting to lament all the things we cannot do, all the opportunities we missed, all the times we’ve been apart. But I’m tired of that, moreover I don’t think it’s the Xaverian way to mourn what might have been, rather we must celebrate what is and what will be,” added Chancellor Peacock.

An honorary doctorate degree was conferred upon the Honourable Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie. Judge Halfpenny-MacQuarrie is a lawyer, judge, volunteer, and social activist, who has made significant contributions to the legal and Indigenous communities, and has been an active social advocate, in Cape Breton, in Nova Scotia, and beyond.

“It’s truly an honour to receive this,” said the Halfpenny-MacQuarrie. Her address to the Class of 2020 focused on her work as a judge and her cherished work with Indigenous communities. “I hope for each of you as your personal lives evolve, that you remember to do things important to you, the things you enjoy and the things that are fun.”

Awards were presented to Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, Professor of Education, Outreach Award; Adam Baden Clay received the Staff Teaching Award, and Venceremos Development Consult was presented with the Community Partner Recognition Award.