Each of us has the power to make a difference, graduates advised at Spring Convocation 2024

family graduate
May 5th was a day of achievement and celebration on campus as StFX graduated over 1,000 students during Spring Convocation 2024

Stephen A. Schwarzman and Christine Schwarzman, Elder Sister Dorothy Moore, and Tom Langley awarded honorary degrees

So many special moments. Spring Convocation 2024 shone with joyful highlights, from the proud smiles and hugs of family to celebratory friend photos to the recognition of achievement, as StFX graduated over 1,000 students on May 5th.  

Four extraordinary individuals, who have helped improve society, in education, business, and philanthropy, were recognized with honorary degrees during morning and afternoon ceremonies at the Charles V. Keating Centre. 

StFX awarded the degree Doctor of Laws honoris causa to Stephen A. Schwarzman, philanthropist, and chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone, one of the world’s leading investment firms; Christine Schwarzman, lawyer, philanthropist, and patron of arts and culture; Elder Sister Dorothy Moore, educator, activist, and respected Mi’kmaw elder; and Tom Langley, former StFX Vice-President Finance and Administration.

The achievements of four StFX faculty members were also celebrated. Dr. Leona English, Department of Adult Education, received the distinction of professor emerita; Dr. Dan Robinson, Faculty of Education, was awarded the University Research Award; and the Outstanding Teaching Award went to both Dr. Peter Kikkert, Public Policy and Governance, and to Dr. Riley Olstead, Department of Sociology.

Bios for all award winners follow below. University medalists and graduation lists are here 2024-Spring-Convocation-Grad-List&Medalists-Morning.pdf and here 2024-Spring-Convocation-Grad-List&Medalists-Afternoon.pdf 


StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin warmly welcomed all, telling convocation that it fills him with pride to see the efforts of so many talented individuals. “Each one of you deserves to take pride in your remarkable achievements.

“This is your day. This is it.”

Your story is about to take you in some incredible, incredible directions, he said.

2024 grad 2
Moments of joy and accomplishment marked Spring Convocation 2024 at StFX 

He reminded graduates they are the author of that journey and it’s important they work to find their passion, to make a positive difference, and do so with kindness.

He also commended the Class of 2024 for starting their studies in-person at StFX during a pandemic when most in Canada went online. “When I think of the leadership that you have shown…it is nothing short of impressive.” 

Dr. Hakin also reflected on someone who greatly influenced him in terms of leadership, a remarkable alumnus, no longer with us, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, who passed away in February 2024. “Today, we are honoured to have his wife, Mila, and his son and daughter-in-law, Mark and Vanessa, among us.”

Mr. Mulroney would be so proud to look out and see the Class of 2024 and their collective potential to make a difference, he said. “His aspiration was clear: if even one student enters these halls and contributes to making Canada great, then all our efforts will have been worthwhile.” 

“You all have potential to make Canada good,” Dr. Hakin said. “Our world, Canada, needs what you have.”


“It is a deep honour for me to accept this degree,” Dr. Stephen A. Schwarzman said in his remarks. 

Stephen Schwarzman
Dr. Stephen Schwarzman (centre) with StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin (left) and Chancellor John Peacock

“I am here today because of a very special person to this institution, the late prime minister, Brian Mulroney. I was very lucky to call him my friend,” Mr. Schwarzman said. 

When Mr. Mulroney was graduating from StFX, in seats like where you are today, who would imagine that this young man from rural Quebec would go on to become a great lawyer, business advisor and politician. Who would have anticipated that this graduate from StFX would help lead the fight against apartheid and to free Nelson Mandela, who would go on to be a pioneer of Free Trade, he said.  
Dr. Schwarzman said he, too, has been on his own journey, marked by ambition, hard work, and no shortage of good luck. Similar to Mr. Mulroney and the StFX graduates of 2024, when he graduated from Yale, he didn’t know what the future would bring. 

When he started his company, Blackstone in 1985, it employed two people. It has since become one of the world’s largest alternative investment firms with over 4,700 employees. 

“It never happens without extremely hard work,” he said. 

He advised students if they are going to work to set goals for maximum success and achievement. “Always set your goals and ambitions as high as you can.”

Christine Schwarzman
Dr. Christine Schwarzman

“Thank you very much for this honour,” Dr. Christine Schwarzman said as she told convocation how inspiring it has been to experience the exceptional spirit of StFX firsthand over the last couple of days. 

No one showcased this StFX spirit, better than our dear friend, Brian Mulroney, she said. 

Dr. Schwarzman, a lawyer and philanthropist, and a lifelong theater lover, told the Class of 2024 she turned her third act towards producing for the stage. Her time working with youth led her to discover a great passion for the power of storytelling, and in bringing stories to life on the stage. As president of No Guarantees, a theatrical company she created in 2017, one of these stories has been the hit musical Come from Away.

Both in this production and her visits to this country, she said she is always inspired by Canadian hospitality and humanity.


Sr. Dorothy
Elder Sister Dr. Dorothy Moore (centre) with StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin (left) and Chancellor John Peacock

Elder Sister Dr. Dorothy Moore shared powerful words of how we are all stronger together, both in her remarks, and together with StFX anthropology professor Dr. L. Jane McMillan, who read from Elder Sister Dr. Moore’s memoir, A Journey of Love and Hope. The Inspirational Words of a Mi'kmaw Elder.

Elder Sister Dr. Moore told how the best gift her parents gave her was to be proud of who she is. Early in life, she came to know discrimination and injustice, yet she persevered. She told a small story of how a key from residential school symbolically locked all the doors to what her creator meant her to be, blocked who she was. She was able later to open the doors, “to bring back our language, our culture, our traditions, our spirituality, of who we really are.”

It is the responsibility of each person to do what is right and just, and to ensure that each child feels accepted in school classes regardless of their background, she said.

“I celebrate you, and the possibility of a just and equitable future. We are stronger together.”  


Dr. Langley, who gave more than 40 years of service to StFX, said he is grateful to accept this honour, which comes the same year that four more of his grandchildren are graduating from StFX.

Tom Langley
Dr. Tom Langley

“My family is my greatest fortune and my blessing,” he said as he shared the same advice he said he’d give them.

The world is as imperfect now as it is ever been and many times you may feel overwhelmed, but he encouraged graduates to have hope. 

“You are the ones actively changing the world.”

Dr. Langley said his hope is that the Class of 2024 will emerge from StFX, and go out in the world with many positive skills, not the least of which is the ability to truly listen, to discern real information from false, to look at people for who they are, to have respect and tolerance for others, refusing to engage in negativity. 

You have an extraordiantry capacity to understand others, and in understanding others, you are better able to understand yourselves, finding out who you are and also who you are not. “Don’t let go of that,” he said.  

“Thank you for giving me hope.”


“Each and every one of you has the capacity to make a difference,” Chancellor John Peacock said as he opened convocation. He urged the graduating class to look to the future with a positive attitude, knowing their Xaverian values will be the wind at their back. 

He also reminded them the privilege of education comes with responsibility, a responsibility of action. “Bring yourselves to the world, fully and kindly and with goodness. Make the world a better place.”

StFX paid tribute to Mr. Peacock who is coming to the end of his term as chancellor. Senior class co-presidents Abbey Mombourquette and Taylor Gorman thanked Mr. Peacock for his many contributions to StFX.

“It’s a privilege to stand in front of such an exceptional group of graduates,” morning senior class speaker Katherine Starr said.

The last four years have been a testament to the sense of community at this special university. StFX has given us the foundation, and with pride, some uncertainty, and optimism, we enter this next stage of life.  

Afternoon senior class speaker Simon Maltby said it is hard to believe four years have gone by and all that we have experienced at StFX. 

“I know this degree will mean something different for each person…we should all be proud of our accomplishments and this achievement should give us the confidence to believe we can do anything,” he said. 

“It is a day none of us will ever forget.”


Dr. Mila Mulroney, 2004 honorary degree recipient, delivered an address to the graduates, telling how her husband arrived at StFX as a 16-year-old son of a working-class family from an isolated area of Quebec, carrying nothing more than a cardboard suitcase and wearing his only blazer. But the things he didn’t have paled in comparison to what he did have: hope, humour, ambition, and an understanding of human nature. At StFX, he made friends of a lifetime, and learned from talented professors. “It was here he learned the power of ideas and the power of ideas that could change the world. 

“Brian loved StFX.”

Speaking of a tradition of former prime ministers and presidents to establish a physical space, a library, for their papers, she said Mr. Mulroney always felt StFX was the place for his. But more than a library, he began to believe it would be beneficial to establish a place for students, a school dedicated to public service and policy, two of his passions; passions he discovered at StFX. He raised over $105 million and today the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government offers 80 scholarships, bursaries and internships, including those designated for Black Nova Scotia and Aboriginal Canadians. 

“Brian didn’t contribute to have a name on a building. He believed in the education,” she said.
Education is the most powerful force to change the world and create opportunity for young Canadians. Sitting in the audience today, it’s inspiring to think what members of the graduating class will go on to achieve. Dr. Mulroney urged all, as proud alumni, to continue to pay it forward and never forget this foundation.  


During the ceremony, Father Donald MacGillivray delivered the invocation and Most Reverend Wayne Joseph Kirkpatrick, Vicar of the Founder, gave the benediction. 

“I want to congratulate each and every one of you,” Kerry Prosper, Elder in Residence, said in remarks as he wished graduates well as they embark on their future journey, carrying this strong education forward. 

Councillor Trevor Gould, Paqtnkek First Nation, offered the Mi’kmaq Honour Song to honour the graduating class. 

Alumni Association president Mike Gillis brought greetings on behalf of the association, welcoming students to an alumni network, 50,000 strong. “We’ll be there to help you.” He asked graduates to take their X-Rings, worn since December 3rd, StFX Day, and in tradition, turn them around so the graduation year numbers face out. 

“You and your ring are now ready to face the world.”

StFX Honorary Degree Recipients 2024 

Tom Langley

J. Thomas Langley
J. Thomas Langley graduated from StFX in 1961 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree and joined the StFX Business Office as bursar in 1963. Four years later, he was appointed comptroller, holding that position until 1976. Mr. Langley earned a master’s degree in university administration from the University of Nebraska (1971) and a Certified General Accounting designation in 1970. An outstanding administrator and a consensus builder, he served for 40 years at his alma mater, including 26 years in the position of Vice-President Finance and Administration and Secretary-Treasurer. He held this position from 1976 until his retirement in 2002. During his tenure, Mr. Langley supported six StFX presidents, implemented significant changes to the financial administration of the university with the introduction of new technology and computerization, and was instrumental in expanding the employee benefits program. Professionally, Mr. Langley served as president of the Canadian Association of Business Officers (CAUBO), as a consultant to the Nova Scotia Department of Education, and as a board member with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, the Canadian University Reciprocal Insurance Exchange, and with the StFX Board of Governors. In his community, he served on the board of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation and Antigonish Minor Soccer. He is a founding director and currently chair of the Bishop William E. Power Foundation. 

Sister Dorothy Moore

Elder Sister Dorothy Moore 
Elder Sr. Dorothy Moore, a proud Mi’kmaw woman, was born in 1933 in Membertou, NS. In 1954, she entered the Sisters of St. Martha and made her final vows in 1956. Her activist work covers an impressive span that includes First Nations preservation of language, education, and human rights. Sr. Dorothy has been widely acclaimed for her significant success in helping to improve the lives of Mi’kmaq people. She began her career as an elementary school teacher in Cape Breton, and for most of her 22-year tenure, Sr. Dorothy taught at schools in Nova Scotia and Alberta. In 1980, she became the principal of the Eskasoni Elementary and Junior High School. From 1985 to 1995, Sr. Dorothy served on the faculty at Cape Breton University and was instrumental in developing the Mi’kmaq Studies Program which laid the foundation for what is now Unama’ki College. From 1995 to 2002, Sr. Dorothy worked at the Department of Education, where she was instrumental in developing history and Mi’kmaq language curriculum for use in the public school system. She has been named to the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada, and holds honorary doctoral degrees from Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University, and Saint Mary’s University. Sr. Dorothy is the author of A Journey of Love and Hope. The Inspirational Words of a Mi'kmaw Elder (Nimbus Publishing, 2022), and is the subject of the documentary film Sister Dorothy Moore: A Life of Courage, Determination and Love, which was produced and directed by Dr. Mary Jane Harkins, and released in 2022.

Christine Schwarzman

Christine Schwarzman
Christine Schwarzman began her career as a field producer and writer at ABC News. After receiving her law degree, she specialized in intellectual-property asset management at the law firm of Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman. While at CL&L, she litigated cases for such corporate clients as Random House, Met Life, Warner Brothers, Sony Entertainment, WWE and Altria. She was the founder and CEO of IP Network, an enterprise software company specializing in the management and commercialization of Intellectual Property. She serves as Trustee of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund. As well, she serves on the Board of Venetian Heritage. She is a member of the New York State Bar Association and American Intellectual Property Bar Association. A lifelong theater lover, she has timed her third act towards producing for the stage. She is president of No Guarantees, a theatrical company that she created in 2017, and which has produced or co-produced over 35 shows and has won four Tony Awards. Among their credits is the hit musical Come from Away.

Stephen Schwarzman

Stephen A. Schwarzman
Stephen A. Schwarzman is chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, one of the world’s largest alternative investment firms with over $1 trillion Assets Under Management. He has been involved in all phases of Blackstone’s development since its 1985 founding. In both business and philanthropy, Mr. Schwarzman dedicates himself to tackling big problems with transformative solutions. His major gifts have helped establish a new center at the University of Oxford to redefine the study of the humanities for the 21st century, create a new college at MIT dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence, build a first-of-its-kind student center at Yale, renovate and expand the New York Public Library, and found an international fellowship program, Schwarzman Scholars, at Tsinghua University in Beijing to educate future leaders about China. Mr. Schwarzman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Business Roundtable, and International Business Council of the WEF. He was named one of Barron’s “World’s Best CEO’s” in 2019; one of Forbes’ Top 50 “World’s Most Powerful People” in 2018; Forbes’ most influential person in finance in 2016; and one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2007. His honours include the Légion d'Honneur and Ordre des Arts et des Letters, both at the Commandeur level from France, and Order of the Aztec Eagle from Mexico, for his work on behalf of the U.S. in support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in 2018. At the University of Oxford, Mr. Schwarzman was elected a Wykeham Fellow at New College in 2021 and a Waynflete Fellow at Magdalen College in 2023. In 2024, Mr. Schwarzman was appointed as an Honorary Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in recognition of his services to philanthropy. In 2019, he published his first book, What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence, a New York Times best seller which draws on his experiences in business, philanthropy, and public service.

StFX Faculty Award Winners 2024

Leona English

Dr. Leona English 
Professor Emerita

Dr. Leona English is a leader in the field of adult education, both in Canada and internationally. She is the most published Canadian author in adult education and she has received significant international recognition. In 2021, she received the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also the inaugural recipient in 2016 of the Honorary Fellow of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, and in 2015, she was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame. Dr. English holds two PhD degrees, a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University and a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Technology in Australia. She joined the StFX Department of Adult Education in 1996, where she has had an exceptional career as a professor and researcher. Her main areas of scholarship include gender and learning, spirituality, and adult education. Dr. English’s work on critical pedagogy and feminist organizations filled important gaps in the field. She consistently received research funding since arriving at StFX, where she also served five terms as department chair and twice as chair of the University Research Ethics Board. Externally, she was president of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education and served as Head of Research and Publications at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg, Germany. A valued mentor to many, she was chosen by her peers to be editor of the highly regarded International Encyclopedia of Adult Education. Among many accolades, she was twice awarded the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education’s Cyril O. Houle Award for outstanding literature in adult education. 

Dan Robinson

Dr. Daniel Robinson
University Research Award

Dr. Dan Robinson joined the StFX Faculty of Education in 2009 and quickly established himself as an outstanding teacher, scholar, researcher, and leader. Currently, he serves as both the Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Leadership, and Coordinator of PhD in Educational Studies. Dr. Robinson is well known as a leading scholar in the field of physical education and sport pedagogy. A prolific author, he has over 100 publications, including over 70 peer-reviewed journal articles, three books, 15 book chapters, and over 10 teacher resources. Dr. Robinson has presented his research at over 90 international and national conferences. Widely recognized for his impactful work, he is a recipient of the Metzler-Freedman Exemplary Paper Award and the Dr. Andy Anderson Young Professional Award. His research is often timely, equity-focused, and responsive. His work appears in highly regarded and high-impact peer-reviewed journals, including, selectively: Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education, European Physical Education Review, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, Journal of American Indian Education, Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, Kinesiology Review, Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, and Teaching and Teacher Education. Dr. Robinson’s current research focuses upon the following: culturally relevant pedagogy; inclusive and adapted physical education, physical activity, and sport; physical literacy; and school communities’ health promotion programming. Dr. Robinson is also an active collaborator who continues to mentor and inspire as he provides exemplary support for colleagues and students as they develop their identities as scholars.   

Peter Kikkert

Dr. Peter Kikkert
Outstanding Teaching Award 

Dr. Peter Kikkert is an associate professor, coordinator of the Public Policy and Governance (PGOV) Program, and Research Fellow with the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at StFX. Dr. Kikkert's person-centered and innovative teaching approach has been consistently evident in the impacts he has had on students and the PGOV program. Nominators describe his unwavering dedication to each student's success and learning outcomes, his nurturing of individual potential, and preparation for real-world challenges. In the classroom, whether guiding newcomers to policy research in a 100 level class, or engaging advanced students in an honours seminar, Dr. Kikkert excels in making complex subjects accessible and intriguing. His support for extracurricular learning and community building within the PGOV program has significantly contributed to its growth and development. “His contributions have not only elevated the PGOV program but have also left an indelible mark on the lives of numerous students, including myself,” writes one nominator. Dr. Kikkert has written extensively on historic and contemporary safety, security, and sovereignty issues in the polar regions. His current research focuses on how to strengthen search and rescue and emergency management capabilities in rural, remote, and Northern communities. Putting his research into practice, Dr. Kikkert serves as a searcher with Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue in Nova Scotia and sits on its Board of Directors.

Riley Olstead

Dr. Riley Olstead
Outstanding Teaching Award

Dr. Riley Olstead, an associate professor in the StFX Department of Sociology, has an exceptional capacity to inspire and facilitate student learning. She teaches and does research in the areas of settler colonialism, decolonisation, and especially the ethics of settler academic responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her work focuses on decolonial health, agriculture, climate change and Indigenous/settler relations and ontologies. Dr. Olstead holds a PhD, M.A., and a University Teaching Diploma from York University, and a B.A. from the University of British Columbia. Student nominators speak of her impact on their learning and in their lives. “She pushes us to think more critically about the world around us, challenging everyone, encouraging us students to develop our academic abilities through presentations, writing papers, or engaging in conversations in class,” writes one. Another says: “I chose St. Francis Xavier because of the small class sizes and community-oriented environment. I did not expect to feel inspired and empowered by the compassion and tenacity of instructors like Dr. Olstead.” Dr. Olstead is known for her compassion in teaching and encouraging students to think outside stereotypical ideas. She has also partnered with psychologist Ivan Drouin to develop a six-week workshop, supporting learning about climate change from a decolonial perspective as well as helping students with mindfulness techniques for anxiety and other challenging emotions. Says a nominator: “Professors like Dr. Riley Olstead, who go well above and beyond for students, truly make St. Francis Xavier University the exceptional university it is.”                                                                              
StFX Senior Class Speakers 2024

Katherine Starr

Katherine Starr
Katherine Starr graduates from St. Francis Xavier University with an honours degree in public policy and governance (PGOV) and subsidiary in political science. She was born and raised in Newmarket, ON but has always considered Antigonish, NS as a second home. Ms. Starr spent many childhood summers visiting her aunts, uncles, and cousins who live in Antigonish and has enjoyed living close to her mom, who recently moved back to Antigonish. Ms. Starr is the recipient of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney Scholarship and has been a Dean's list student for the past four years. She has held several jobs on campus including being a research assistant at the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and working as a tutor and notetaker for the Tramble Centre for Accessible Learning. She helped co-found the 'Our House Too' society on campus to promote inclusivity in politics and has been involved in several other societies including the PGOV Society, the Model United Nations Society, and the Women in Business Society. Ms. Starr is passionate about public policy, international relations, and advocating for women's rights among many other things. She plans to pursue a degree in law.

Simon Maltby

Simon Maltby
Simon Maltby graduates from StFX with a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in mathematics and statistics. Growing up in Port Hastings, Cape Breton, he learned the values of having a strong work ethic, being kind to others, and to never stop asking questions about the world around him. Thanks to the beliefs passed on to him by his parents and grandparents, he has a strong Catholic faith, which has led to his involvement in the planning of many multi-faith events during his undergraduate studies. He has also dedicated his time to helping with tutorial sessions, participating in political discussions, playing intramurals, and going to Thursday night curling in St. Andrews. When he’s not studying, he can be found spending time with family at the beach, going to square dances, or having a conversation with friends over a cup of tea. He is fascinated by how math and science can be used to explain many of the world’s phenomena. Over the past three summers, being the recipient of NSERC and Scotia Scholars research grants, he has conducted studies in the fields of general relativity and spatial statistics. Enrolled in the Bachelor of Education program for this fall, he wants to share his love for learning with others.