On June 19 and 20, 2012 Brantford’s downtown was flooded with gown-clad students and faculty. The 2012 spring convocation transformed roughly 430 students into Wilfrid Laurier University alumni.
Three ceremonies were spread between two days, each beginning with the challenging speech from Chancellor Michael Lee-Chin. An honorary degree was presented to a deserving community member during each ceremony. Laurier Brantford offered the distinction of honorary Doctor of Letters to Joseph Boyden, former writer in residence and acclaimed Canadian author as well as Louise Halfe, also known as Sky Dancer, an Alberta-born Indigenous poet.
“Continue to differentiate yourself in the world,” Chin urges the students before him. This was a suiting introduction for the quite successfully differentiated honorary degree recipients.
Halfe’s purple-streaked hair, dyed especially for the occasion, frames her face as Indigenous Studies Professor, Gary Warrick summarizes Halfe’s event-filled life.
Born in Alberta, Halfe, was taken from her family at a young age to be placed in a residential school for many years. She completed her high school education in Calgary and went on to study social work at the University of Regina. However, Halfe’s passion was in poetry.
Her publications; Bear Bones and Feathers and Blue Marrow have earned several awards and titles including a nomination for the Governor General’s Award.
Halfe’s eyes welled with tears at the beaming stage lights upon the closure of Warrick’s introduction. Her strong-willed speech invoked a similar reaction from the soon-to-be alumni.
“Today you’ve earned an eagle feather,” she remarked, extending a piece of her culture to the listening audience. The eagle feather marks acknowledgement of high gratitude, love and respect- something Halfe offered to all in attendance, regarding the on-lookers as one family.
Each member of said Laurier Brantford family then crossed the stage to be hooded with gold and purple sashes, marking the achievement of their degree. The class of 2012 is an immense addition to alumni of the very first Brantford convocation in 2002, one of just 12 students. As enrolment continues to grow, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus will continue to grant degrees of true distinction to young men and women.
No sash or eagle feather in hand will mark their individuality; their contributions to society will take care of that.