Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

“Let the joy sink in!” Nearly 1,000 StFX students receive coveted X-Ring

December 3rd, 2022

“Can you feel it? Can you hear it?’

Those were the words StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin asked just under 1,000 students, clad in black robes, sitting in the Keating Centre on December 3rd, 2022, the Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier, about to receive their much-anticipated X-Ring.

There’s a crackle in the room, a buzz, Dr. Hakin said. 

“It’s called excitement. It’s called X-Ring Day. You’re here. But it’s also the Feast of St. Francis Xavier.” 

St. Francis Xavier was a bit of a traveler, Dr. Hakin said. He went on journeys, and he made a difference.

“What a journey you’ve had,” Dr Hakin told students as thousands of family and friends tuned in to watch the livestreamed ceremony from Wisconsin to British Columbia, North Carolina to Ottawa, while a number of parent viewing rooms were set up on campus. 

Not only have you been on a tremendous academic journey at StFX, your journey has allowed you to experience community, to be in a place where we learn to be with each other, where we learn to understand differences, where we learn that we’re not always right, where we learn to be a good citizen, and we learn to give back.

“And that is one of the most powerful life lessons,” Dr. Hakin said. 

“Your journey is your own unique brand of StFX “

Along the way, you’ve mastered some X values, and I encourage you to never lose those, he said. 

“So if you can feel a little crackle, if you can feel a little buzz in the air, well deserved.” 


Guest speaker Dr. Tania Sullivan ’98, Emergency Medicine Physician Lead at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, also encouraged the senior class to keep these values close as they journey forward. 

Dr. Tania Sullivan

Dr. Sullivan, a mother of five and a native of Newfoundland, said when people ask her for advice about becoming a doctor, the only thing she keeps coming back to is “be the best you.

“My point is there is no right path to what you want. There is simply the one you, and only you, can make. Be the best you. Be relentless and be authentic.”

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life, she said.  

Dr. Sullivan, who stepped into the role of St. Martha’s COVID lead, said at no time in our collective lives has that been more apparent that these past few years. 

Talking about her life as an ER doctor and as COVID lead, she spoke about what it was like to be on the front lines and what it was like to be part of a larger community who worked together to maneuver through these difficult times.   

“It is about showing up, instead of giving up,” Dr. Sullivan told the students as she recalled feeling the weight of many decisions she had to make without knowing all the information. She remembered the strength she felt in knowing she and her colleagues were truly in it all together. Dr. Sullivan remembered looking at her husband and children, in tears, and knowing if she didn’t step into the role, that ‘if not me, then who?”

She also recalled how different sectors of the community all came together as partners to act as one. 

“In true Xaverian fashion, we stepped in, and we stepped up,” she said. 

Dr. Sullivan encouraged the students to think for a second about how they managed through the pandemic. “That speaks to your strength and character. Be proud.”

She also spoke about moving on versus moving forward. The pandemic highlighted many injustices, and we cannot move on from this. “We must move forward,” she said. 

Dr. Sullivan challenged the students to use their resilience to commit to moving forward as stewards of doing better. Moving forward is not going to happen unless there is a willingness to be in it, she said. 

“We are here today and coming out the other side…because we were willing to be in it together.”


Renee MacLeod, co-president of the Senior Class, gave remarks on behalf of the Class of 2023. She encouraged her classmates to stand up and “to let the joy sink in” as she also encouraged them to shout out ‘we made it.’ 

“Yes, we made it!”

StFX, she said, is a place like no other, where you feel a sense of community, where you learn to build compassion for others, where you’re shaped into leaders. 

“I’ve grown in more ways that I thought possible, and so have all of you.”  

Fellow Senior Class co-president Ryder Ferris served as master of ceremonies. He announced this year’s Senior Class Gift, the UneXpected Relief Fund, will help support students who experience unexpected crisis and need. 

“To my classmates, I don’t need to tell you about the significance of this moment, the excitement in this room speaks for itself. We made it!” senior student Aliyah Fraser said in bringing words of welcome.

The X-Ring, she said, symbolizes the unique journey from student to alumni, it symbolizes achievement and all that went into earning that achievement. It’s a bond, a constant reminder to the sense of family found at StFX, she said.

Kathleen Sheridan ’15, president of the StFX Alumni Association, provided alumni congratulations. 

“My hope is that overall it serves as a strong and constant reminder of your lifelong connection and dedication to StFX, and reminds you of the Xavierian community that will always be here for you and which you will always be a part.” 

Ms. Sheridan also encouraged the students to make the most of their final months at StFX. Study hard, she said, make time to talk to faculty and staff, volunteer, go to that society meeting, order those garlic fingers, hang out with your friends, and soak in all of places and people that StFX has to offer you. 


In a touching moment, the honorary X-Ring went to Andrew Beckett, the recently retired StFX Vice-President Finance & Administration. 

During the ceremony, University Chaplain Father Donald MacGillivray ’79 delivered the invocation, while Thomas MacLellan read the explanation of the StFX Motto, and Dhruv Patel read from the Writings of Dr. Moses Coady. Students’ Union president Brendan Roberts led the Xaverian Commitment. 

Kathleen Dolan introduced the guest speaker and Grace MacDonald provided the response, thanking Dr. Sullivan for her remarks.  

Candle bearers lighting the X candle included Sam Silver, Glen Stinson, Sophie Hadley, Rebecca MacKeen, Abigail Moran and Fergus, Ami Ajadi, Molly Burke, Leah Pink, Gabby Anderson, Evan Fortin, Michael Delaney, Hannah James and Peter MacGregor. 

Music was provided by Claya Way Brackenbury and Claire MacMullin. Janet Becigneul sang O Canada. 

As students exited the ceremony, they tapped their new X-Rings on a kneeler from the University Chapel, a tradition from when the ceremony was small enough to be held there. 

Start Your Journey