Yesterday was a special day…ok, so most days are special for me It was our graduation ceremony for about 250 of my business students. Over the almost 10 years at SFU, I have never missed a single graduation ceremony. That is two ceremonies a year for 10 years…I am not a math major but that adds up to 20. For 19 of the ceremonies, I have always walked around to congratulate, hug and appreciate my students as they get their regalia before they line up, then to the top of the stairs for a march past by all the students and acknowledge their accomplishment, then to the first row to watch the ceremony, and to then finally leave and meet them for the reception. I see so many smiles and some tears as this closes a chapter in their lives.
Yesterday was different though, I did not get to spend time with the students before the ceremony or to stand on top of the stairs to cheer them on as they walked by me, and I could also not sit on the first row to watch them all receive their degree. No, today was unique as I got to be in the procession and hand the honour of being the alumni representative who gots to say a few words and hand out the pins as they cross the stage to formally end one chapter of their lives and to embark on to another.
The alumni pin is a symbolic reminder of connectedness that most will either put in some drawer or lose all together. Years from now, you may be looking for an important document and you stumble across this small pin. When I graduated in 1986 and went to take on the world, I put my pin in a safe place. I knew where the pin was at all times because I wanted to wear it with pride in the future because I had a vision to go back and work at SFU and help students in their life journey so they did not have a bumpy takeoff of their career like I had. I have dedicated almost 10 years to thousands of students, making sure that I could reach out to as many students and help them be better prepared.
Now as the dust settles from your ceremony and celebrations and as you start thinking of your future, put that alumni pin in a safe place. It is a symbol of your connection to the university and me. All of the years you spent in university are now embodied in a piece of paper and this pin. The paper is going to sit in a folder or go on a wall, not a lot of people will see that. The pin is something that you will be able to show and it symbolizes your journey and time dedicated to accomplish a goal you set out years before.
Today was special because I got to personally thank, shake the hands and officially welcome students into the alumni pool and my only regret is that I wish I could have done this for the last 19 ceremonies because ALL my students matter to me. Whether I know them or not, they are all my students and they all matter to me. I may have pinned my students today but symbolically, I got to pin you all over the last 10 years. In my scripted speech, I broke the rules and had to add a small conclusion that really spoke to the sentiment and situation. :
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
― A.A. Milne
PS – Thank you to the SFU Alumni Association, SFU Alumni Office and SFU for allowing me to have this honour
PSS – Yes that is my alumni pin from 1986
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