Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

X-Ring symbol of membership in Xaverian family—and sometimes much more

April 25th, 2019

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of the Extraordinary.

The X-ring is a symbol of the bearer’s membership in the Xaverian family. Sometimes, though, the ring has much greater family significance. 

By the time Adrian MacKenzie married Alison Aucoin in the early 1950s, he’d served in the Second World War, completed his undergraduate degree at StFX, and was deep into his medical studies at Dalhousie. The young couple had little spare cash, but Alison saved diligently in order to finally purchase the coveted X-ring as a surprise for her new husband. She bought it, as she recalls, for between thirty and forty dollars, from Birks in Halifax. It had no inscription other than the year she bought it: 1950.  

When their first son, Michael, was born in 1955, Adrian was now Dr. MacKenzie, well on his way to becoming a renowned pathologist.  

As Adrian and Alison added four more sons and two daughters to their growing family, Dr. MacKenzie’s career similarly expanded: he became the head of clinical chemistry at Dalhousie in 1960, and developed world-class facilities at the Pathology Institute of the Victoria General Hospital.  

Unfortunately, Dr. MacKenzie succumbed to colon cancer in 1970, at the age of 46, leaving behind his beloved Alison and their seven children. He’d worn his X-ring until the day he died.  

The ring was given to one of Dr. MacKenzie’s brothers, who lived in Newfoundland and who had also studied at StFX. And when he passed, the ring was offered to a brother-in-law, also named Adrian – although that Adrian had no connection to StFX.  

Dr. MacKenzie’s eldest son, Michael, became a physician himself, and with his wife, Judy, raised his family in Antigonish, where he continues to practice medicine. They named their first son after Michael’s father, who’d passed when the younger Dr. MacKenzie was only fourteen.  

There was no mention of the long-forgotten X-ring until the second Adrian MacKenzie, Dr. MacKenzie’s grandson, was about to graduate from StFX. His grandmother, Alison, wondered what had become of the ring, and contacted her brother-in-law, now living in New York state, to ask him about it. The ring, at that point, had been missing from the immediate family for 31 years. 

After much digging, the ring was discovered in a box in the attic, somewhat worse for wear. The brother-in-law shipped it back to Nova Scotia, and Alison had it refurbished before presenting it to her grandson in advance of the X-ring ceremony in December of 2001. It needed to be resized, so her grandson took the opportunity to add an inscription: “Adrian MacKenzie” -- both his name and the name of the original wearer of the ring. He added his graduation year, too – 2002. 

The significance of the ring is not lost on the younger Adrian, who recently completed a PhD in community health at Memorial University (thus becoming yet another Dr. MacKenzie). “Other than my wedding ring,” he notes, “it is the only material possession that I care about.” It does not come off his finger.  

Alison, still living in Halifax, sees her grandson often, occasionally confusing him for her own Adrian, her love. And, she’ll pat his hand, telling him “that ring is where it belongs.” She would know: in addition to her husband and brother-in-law, two of her children (Paul and Audrey) studied here, and five other grandchildren (Beth ’03, Mark ’05, Catherine ’06, Alison ’11, and Angela ’15, ’18) have degrees from StFX – a perfect legacy for the first Dr. MacKenzie.

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