Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

2016 Fall Convocation: New Graduates Celebrate Triumphs

December 4th, 2016
New graduates and faculty members listen to the senior class speakers at StFX's 2016 Fall Convocation

More than 200 graduates – including 39 individuals from the Coady International Institute – received degrees and diplomas at St. Francis Xavier University’s fall convocation, today December 4th, 2016.

Degrees were awarded in Master of Science and Master of Education, as well as Education, Arts, Science, Business and Information Systems. Diplomas were presented to graduates of Adult Education, Engineering, Jazz, Ministry and Development Leadership.

In his opening address, StFX President and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Kent MacDonald welcomed the graduating class along with their friends and families – some of whom travelled great distances to attend. He also paid special tribute to graduates from StFX’s Coady International Institute.

“You left your families behind and came to Antigonish with the commitment that you would make your communities stronger and prosperous,” he said. “Your presence on this campus made our lives more exciting and the learning more rich.” 

Dr. MacDonald noted the fall 2016 class included members from StFX’s first cohort of Masters of Education students, specializing in leadership in mental health and leadership in teaching Indigenous students. 

He also reminded attendees of the responsibility that comes with the title of StFX graduate.

“You are now bound to our 164-year-old commitment to serve others. Leave with confidence knowing that StFX and our faculty have prepared you well. But also know that we’re relying on you to make a difference, and positively impact the imperfect and unfinished story of humankind.”


An honorary degree was conferred upon John C. (Jack) O’Donnell ‘58, Professor Emeritus and former chair of the StFX Music Department. Dr. O’Donnell made an outstanding contribution to Canadian culture as conductor and musical director of The Men of the Deeps, North America’s only coal miner chorus, organized 50 years ago to preserve the rich folklore of Cape Breton’s coal mining communities. 

He also made important contributions as a humanitarian, working along with his wife Judy to build and support L’Arche Antigonish, a community of people with and without intellectual disabilities that’s part of the international L’Arche network. 

In his address to fellow degree and diploma recipients, Dr. O’Donnell recalled how the ideals of the Coady International Institute lead him on a path that would influence his involvement with both L’Arche and the Men of the Deeps. 

He also shared wisdom on the importance of staying involved and engaged with the wider community.

“Follow your dreams and pursue the career of your choice vigorously, but don’t bury yourself in your career,” he said. “Save some of that vigour for those outside your immediate circle. There are always needs to be fulfilled.” 


In their address, graduates Asri Sawiji from Indonesia and Winston Vincent Williams Jr. from Antigua and Barbuda, reflected on the doors that an education will open for new graduates. 

“Today I took the walk of graduation for the first time at 43 years old,” said Winston. “I have a new lease on life, a new vision, a new purpose restored and many, many friends.”

“Everyone has a skill they bring to the field, to the table, or to the organization,” said Asri. “Your responsibility is making this into a beautiful arrangement. Let us reflect for a while on this happy day, and then let’s get to work.”


Dr. Ann Bigelow, Professor of Psychology, was awarded the StFX Outreach Award for her role in founding StFX’s service learning program, which this year celebrated its 20th anniversary. The award is presented to a university faculty or staff member who has demonstrated long and consistent involvement in activities that have served the wider Nova Scotia community.

Each year, more than 900 StFX students participate in service learning projects that benefit over 90 community agencies in Antigonish and throughout the wider world. 

L’Arche Antigonish received the Community Partner Recognition Award for its “dedication to inclusion and community building.” Since its establishment in 1979, L’Arche Antigonish has partnered with StFX to provide research, teaching and service learning opportunities to over 1000 students. 


University Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker conferred all degrees and diplomas upon new graduates. 

StFX Alumni Association President Glenn Horne ’07 ’08 also welcomed new graduates into the StFX Alumni family, “one of the world’s most established and connected university networks.”

“Alumni know what you’ve put into your time here at StFX, and what you’ve become because of your challenges and triumphs,” he said.  

The convocation ceremony included music from the Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School Band and a rendition of O Canada, led by Ms. Janet Becigneul, sung in English, French, Mi’kmaq and Gaelic. 


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