Spread out over three ceremonies so as to make room for the graduates, their families, and friends at the Sanderson Centre downtown, excitement was alive in the air in Brantford as degrees were handed out to 337 Laurier Brantford students.
Wearing black robes and carrying sashes in the traditional Laurier purple and gold which were later draped over them, each student took their turn having their name called, and walking across the stage to receive congratulations from both John Pollock, chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University, and Bruce Arai, the dean of the Brantford campus.
From there, the celebration filled the air as the two days were filled with emotion, memories, and dreams for the future for all of those who can now call themselves grads.
The ceremonies started off with a rather long address from Pollock about Laurier’s international ambitions followed by a Thanksgiving address, before the students were awarded their degrees.
“This is the most important celebration of the academic year,” said Dr. Max Blouw, president and vice-chancellor of Laurier. “This is a milestone in your life.”
Meanwhile, it wasn’t just those who have been studying at Laurier Brantford who received their degrees, as 62 soon-to-be-teachers also received their education degrees from Nipissing-Brantford in the first ceremony.
The occasions also offered both universities the opportunity to award honorary degrees.
During the second convocation, Laurier presented H. Fisk Johnson, the chairman and CEO of SC Johnson, an honorary doctor of laws degree. Johnson, a fifth-generation family member to lead the 125-year-old company that has operated in Brantford since 1920, recalled his own university experience.
“I stayed in school a while,” Johnson joked with the crowd. “My father used to say I was living proof that you could get through 10 years of fraternity parties and survive.”
Johnson also spoke the words from a Christmas speech by his great-grandfather in 1927, offering advice for the other graduates about to enter the business world.
“He said that the goodwill of people is the only enduring thing in any business. It is the sole substance.”
Rose McGowan, an associate professor at Laurier Brantford, spoke highly of SC Johnson’s commitment to communities in which they operate when introducing Johnson. For Laurier Brantford, that commitment resulted in a $1 million donation last year, much of which was spent to renovate the old CIBC building, now appropriately called, the SC Johnson Building.
Johnson wasn’t the only one to receive an honorary degree during the graduation ceremonies.
During the concurrent education convocation, Keith Lickers was also awarded an honorary degree. Lickers, a respected educator who concentrated on developing a school curriculum related to native studies received an honorary degree from Nipissing Brantford.
While Johnson and Lickers got to shine in the spotlight for the longest time, the joyous experience of receiving a university degree was shared by everyone during the three ceremonies.