Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

It's official! StFX celebrates Spring Convocation 2017 welcoming nearly 1,000 graduates into alumni family

May 7th, 2017
StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald congratulations a member of the Class of 2017

WATCH THE MORNING & AFTERNOON Ceremonies ONLINE via webcast -- click here >>

“Let’s make this official!”

With those words, the Class of 2017—together with their parents, family and friends—rose in a standing ovation as StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker officially conferred degrees and diplomas on nearly 1,000 new StFX graduates from across Canada and around the world.

Internationally renowned Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw artist, filmmaker, musician, author, and social justice advocate Alan Syliboy, and distinguished Canadian diplomat Anne Leahy were honoured with the degree Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

The day was one of celebration for many, marking many milestones.

One particularly poignant one was celebrated by Theresa Mary Turay, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, who crossed the stage with her baby, born just this week. “I didn’t want to miss graduation,” she said.

“To the graduating Class of 2017, congratulations,” said StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald who extended a warm StFX welcome to visitors, family, friends and returning alumni, while also thanking faculty, staff and family for all their support of the graduates.

Dr. MacDonald urged students as they close one chapter and open another to re-hoist their sails and to set their sights even further and figure out what else needs to be done. “That’s your quest as a graduate of StFX.

“Even though the world is a much better place, you don’t have to go far to realize there is more work to be done.”

L-r, Vicar of the Founder, Bishop Brian Dunn, honorary degree recipient Dr. Anne Leahy, StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald, honorary degree recipient Dr. Alan Syliboy, and StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker.

Dr. MacDonald opened remarks by telling a story of human kindness while he was overseas recently. Due to fly back to Canada, he left his passport in a cab. He told how the driver, Ian Howard, tracked him down to return the document with an apology that it took so long.

“What’s the relevance of all that,” he asked?

“This group of graduates is going out into the world with wonderful, wonderful people,” he said. While we are often inundated with negative stories in the news and online, we don’t always take the time to realize the world is a wonderful place. “We forget the world is filled with Ian Howards. We forget the world is changing and improving like it’s never before.

“Here’s my hope for you. I hope that you leave … being a little bit more like Ian Howard, be less impressed by money and power and titles and more impressed by kindness, humility, generosity and character. I hope you now embrace this gift called a StFX education.”

It’s your job now to figure out how you’re going to contribute to that goodness, he said.

“This is your moment,” Dr. Crocker told the Class of 2017. “Just like you did at StFX, you will carve out a path that interests and rewards you...You are ready for the recognition you are about to receive.”


“I think I’m an example of it’s not where you start but where you finish,” said Dr. Syliboy, who received a standing ovation from the large crowd filling the Keating Centre.

Dr. Syliboy, who has enjoyed many accomplishments in his career, noted his early education didn’t start well.

He said while he never went to Residential School his father did. “We’re all affected by it, not directly, but indirectly.

“I feel as time goes on and as we’re talking about it and it gets out in the open, the healing process has started very well.

He says being invited to be the Coady Chair of Social Justice at StFX’s Coady International Institute was a career highlight. “I could convey a message, I could tell a story.

“A goal in my life is to sort of open doors,” Dr. Syliboy said, noting he did a lot of things in his life where he was the first Indigenous person to do so. “For me, as an Elder…I’m more concerned the next one behind me gets through that same door.”


“I encourage you, dear graduates, to make the best of the education StFX has given you,” Dr. Leahy said in her remarks.

“Education is really about you, the human being, and the human being in relation to others, your community, you have a purpose in life to contribute to the well-being of society.”

She says the earlier you realize what you accomplish with others is more valuable than what you accomplish on your own, the happier you will be.    

Dr. Leahy encouraged graduates to reflect on how they will define success, and to be guided by ethical social principles. “And you know this well at StFX,” she said.

She also encouraged graduates to challenge themselves, to think critically, to make an effort to see people who are unlike them, who think differently. Let yourself be disrupted. Let your personal biases by challenged, she said.

“Listen to your inner voice and act on what seems best for you and for society even when you seem to be going against the current.”

Caring about social justice and getting involved is key as society is only as healthy as its most vulnerable members. Whatever path you choose, you can choose to make that a reality, she said.  


Chemistry graduate Victoria Sandre delivers the senior class address during the morning convocation ceremony. 

“We’re blessed by an environment here at StFX that enables us to be agents of change,” said chemistry graduate Victoria Sandre, who delivered the morning address on behalf of the graduating class. “I look forward to witnessing the sparks your energy will spread all around the world.”

Schwartz School business graduate Hannah Herbert-Robertson gave the senior class address in the afternoon ceremony.   

“We’ve all just been given a gift,” she said as she noted how fortunate they all are to come to this school.

“What are we going to do with it? How can we take this degree and pay it forward in our communities?”

What’s important now is to use the tools we have and make the world better around us, she told her classmates.   

Glenn Horne, president of the StFX Alumni Association, congratulated graduates and encouraged them to become active in the alumni family and in society.

“Become engaged,” he said. “Lead change and inspire, just as you have here.”

He encouraged graduates to lean on the alumni network. “We’re here. They call us a Xaverian family for a reason,” he said as he played a video with several alumni chapter representatives each saying hello and welcoming the Class of 2017.


Many honours and awards were presented during the ceremonies.

Among these were the presentation of the StFX Outstanding Teaching Award to chemistry professor Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer and to English professor Dr. Kailin Wright. Political science professor Dr. Lavinia Stan was honoured with the President’s Research Award.

Two others singled out were longtime faculty members Dr. Burton MacDonald and Dr. Daniel MacInnes who each received the distinction of Professor Emeritus during the ceremony.

Vicar of the Founder Bishop Brian Dunn gave the benediction.

2017 university medalists included:

University Gold Medals

These medals are awarded to the student with the highest average in the final three years of an honours, advanced major or major degree program:

Bachelor of Science to: Michael Peter Kinach, Delta, BC

Bachelor of Science in Nursing to: Laura Lee Burns, Antigonish, NS & Hannah Kate Dunn Pollock, Kettle Point, ON

Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition to: Jane Elizabeth Stevenson, Lyon’s Brook, NS

Bachelor of Arts/Science in Human Kinetics to: Eibhlin Maria Storey, Moncton, NB

Diploma in Engineering to: Cecil Samuel Ash, Cranbrook, BC

Bachelor of Education to: Ashley Nicole Marie MacDonald, Sydney River, NS

Bachelor of Arts to: Briony Rose Merritt, Upper Tantallon, NS

Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Arts in Music to: Brandon Elliott D’Eon, Berwick, NS

Governor General Medal

The Governor General Graduate Medal for the highest overall average in a thesis-based graduate program to: Almudena García García, Alhama de Murcia, Spain

The Governor General Undergraduate Medal for the highest average in the final three years of study to: Maria Janessa teNyenhuis, Guelph, ON

The Gerald Schwartz School of Business

The following medals are awarded to the students with the highest average in the final three years of a Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Information Systems program:

The Silver Medal Bachelor of Information Systems to: Julian Andrew Kane, Montreal, QC

The ONEX Corporation Gold Medal Bachelor of Business Administration to: Maria Janessa teNyenhuis, Guelph, ON

Honorary Degree recipient bios:

Alan Syliboy

Alan Syliboy inspires people in his community, the larger community and internationally. Through his art and advocacy, he has introduced Mi’kmaw culture and heritage in a positive, meaningful way, in particular making young people aware of their identity and place in the world. Mr. Syliboy lives in the Millbrook First Nations community and is known for his vibrant paintings inspired by the ancient petroglyph images and traditional quill weaving designs of the Mi’kmaq people. His work has been exhibited regionally, nationally, and internationally, and is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Beaverbrook Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Art Collection of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, and the Innu Nation. Significantly, his works are exhibited in a wide variety of public spaces. He studied privately with Shirley Bear and attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where 25 years later, he was invited to sit on the Board of Governors. In 2016, he served as the Coady Chair in Social Justice at StFX. His art has been critically acclaimed around the world. He has received many awards, including the 2002 Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. His 2010 film “Little Thunder” has been screened at international film festivals and received the Best Animation Film award at the First People’s Festival in Montreal. He was lead artist of a group sculpture at the 2010 Olympics called “Keepers of the Eastern Door,” and also painted 12 panels entitled “People of the Dawn,” later shortlisted for the Lieutenant Governor’s Masterworks Art Award. A giant mural he created is seen daily by travelers as they enter and leave the Robert Stanfield International Airport in Halifax, NS.  

Anne Leahy

Born in Québec City, Anne Leahy is an accomplished Canadian diplomat with 40 years of experience that culminated in Rome as Ambassador of Canada to the Holy See. Soon after retiring, she returned to Rome as Papal Transition Coordinator for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs in early 2013. An inspired educator, she is now adjunct professor of the School of Religious Studies at McGill University and teaches Catholicism and Public Policy in McGill’s Catholic Studies Program. She is an economics graduate of Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. Her distinguished diplomatic career took her mainly to Europe and Africa, as well as Toronto and Montreal. She served initially in the Soviet Union, the Canadian Mission to the European Community and the Canadian Delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She was Ambassador to Poland and to Russia (Belorussia, Armenia Uzbekistan) in the momentous 1990s. In Africa, she participated in the creation of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region in the early 2000s. She was also Ambassador to Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic. As the federal coordinator with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, she helped organize the largest youth event ever held in Canada, World Youth Day 2002, in conjunction with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Toronto. Her current pro bono activities include membership on the Conseil of the Institut d’études internationales de Montréal at UQAM of which she was the first director in 2002-04; the Advisory Board of the School of Religious Studies of McGill; the Governing Board of Regis College, University of Toronto, and the Executive Board of the Retired Heads of Mission Association. She is active in her Montreal parish and has been much involved in its welcoming committee for Syrian refugees.


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