Address to the Graduating Class of 2013

Chancellor Verschuren,  Colleagues, Families and Friends and Graduates of Cape Breton University. I am sure everyone on this platform and in this arena joins with me in offering sincere congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2013.  And I hope you are as proud of your achievements as your professors and administrators are of your success in reaching this very happy moment.

You have worked hard, played hard, and you have achieved success in your chosen fields of study. The Class of 2013 represents a multi-cultural ‘virtual village’ of learners who have come together for personal growth and career development.  Representing diverse cultures and geographies and speaking many different first languages, from Mi’kmaq to Mandarin, from English to Acadian to Arabic, our students have forged friendships and shared experiences that will resonate in the lives of their families and friends forever.

Limitless opportunities flow from these inter-cultural connections – opportunities that will allow our graduates to lead more fulfilling lives and make the world a better and more sustainable place.

Cape Breton University is proud to be a global village.  For we live on an island that has long been a home and a destination for adventurers, traders, entrepreneurs and dreamers.

This Island has witnessed internationally leading innovations in aviation, communications and shipping.  And so this global connectedness is the hallmark of Cape Breton Island and Cape Breton University.  And it is our gift to every single CBU graduate.

We are proud to say that today nearly one third of our students are international in origin and more than half are from Cape Breton Island itself.  And we are delighted to welcome friends and family members from this Island, from all parts of Canada, and all corners of the globe, to celebrate the achievements of our graduates, your sons and daughters, grand children, nephews and nieces, cousins and friends.

Cape Breton University has had a spectacular year.  This year we celebrated the ten highly successful years of our 5th President Dr John Harker, years which witnessed significant campus developments, including the construction of the Shannon School of Business and Verschuren Centre buildings.

The Shannon School of Business building opened in September 2012, and it is most fitting that our principal benefactor Joe Shannon was inducted to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in a wonderful ceremony in Toronto earlier this month.

Our unique partnership with Aboriginal communities resulted in CBU being the only Canadian University to be mentioned in the Federal budget, with the announcement of a $5m commitment to the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies. And we were delighted to announce the appointment of leading aboriginal scholar Stephen Augustine as Principal of Unama’ki College.

Significant research grants were awarded to our researchers in Psychology, Ethnomusicology, Science and Cultural Studies.  We were awarded a prestigious Canada Research Chair, and we appointed two internationally leading scholars to Research Chairs in the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment proving again that Cape Breton University can compete with the best Universities in the world in our areas of special strength.

New scholarships and legacies were established in the names of Rita MacNeil, the much loved first lady of song in Cape Breton, University historian Dr Robert Morgan, as well as John and Eunice Harker.  Another 16 new awards were established, including one in memory of former student, the Kevin Hillman Award, and one in the name of a former faculty member, the Michael Manson Award.

Several of our students won prestigious external awards, including the Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies, the Gerald Gordon Memorial Prize by the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia, various research council Undergraduate Student Research Awards and a Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

The Boardmore Playhouse and our Art Gallery hosted a multitude of performances and events to enrich the lives of our community, examples include the annual Elizabeth Boardmore One-Act Play Festival and The Glass Is.. an exhibit that showcased the work of nine emerging Cape Breton artists.

Our athletic teams, always the source of much CBU pride, brought home two Atlantic University Championships and a Canadian University Silver Medal in addition to some highly respected individual student and coaching awards.  And this year, like so many before, we are  pleased to see so many of our student athletes recognized as  Academic All Canadians, exceptional student athletes who achieve an academic standing of 80% or better  while playing on one of CBU’s varsity teams.

For a small university we are a powerful athletic force. In the past 10 years, CBU has won more Atlantic University banners than any other school in the five sports in which we participate.

In years to come I know you will remember your time here with fondness and pride.  You will always be part of the Cape Breton University family.  And so you will always be a Cape Bretoner, wherever you are from.  Because being a Cape Bretoner is not just about birthplace, it is about sharing in an exciting and ambitious story and sharing ideals of hard work, perseverance, social justice and sustainability.

I hope you will stay in touch with each other and with your alma mater through social media and email.  Some of you may even become wealthy and I hope you will consider re-investing some of that wealth in future generations of Cape Breton University students.  And even if you never become wealthy, for that is not the most important measure of a successful life, I wish you a meaningful life and a chance to give back to future generations in other ways as family members, community volunteers and employers.

The Founder of our University, Father Donald F Campbell passed away recently, and it was uplifting for all of us to attend the celebration of his life and to learn more of why today Cape Breton University is so special.   This University was founded on high aspiration and perseverance by the community which gave it life.  And from its very beginnings the University was designed for the higher purpose of education in service of society, locally and globally, and not just for the private success of the individual.

That is why our Faculty and support staff are so committed to the future success of our students as well as to their personal research and teaching.  We are all determined to impact the world positively through supporting our students and our graduates to be the best people they can possibly be.

In my last blog reflecting on the legacy of Donald Campbell I quoted Samuel Johnson who said “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance”.  I could have equally quoted Thomas Jefferson: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”

So this is no ordinary University.  And you are no ordinary graduates.  I wish you lots of hard work building your families and your careers, and addressing and solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges, for they are numerous.

And – because I know you will all work hard for it – I wish you mountains of good luck.

David Wheeler PhD

President and Vice-Chancellor