Valedictory Address

St. Thomas University
Spring Convocation
May 13, 2014

Good Afternoon,
As I stand before you today, there is one overwhelming thought that crosses my mind. We did it. I stand before you today because we are finished. The past 4 years have led us up to this moment. It’s all over.

I vividly remember how I felt my first day at STU. I imagine you do too. I was so excited to move away from home and start University. I wanted to meet new people, have new experiences and explore life on my own terms.

I moved into Harrington Hall a day late because of Hurricane Earl. As we drove onto campus, my mom saw all the “Honk if you love STU signs” and naturally, laid on the horn all the way down Dineen Dr. Just when I thought I was going to die of embarrassment, we parked the car, and before I even knew what was happening, the Welcome Week leaders had transported all my things inside. Unpacking was a blur, but what I remember most is the way my heart dropped into my stomach when my mom turned to leave. I was all alone. I was 18, in a new city, new province, and didn’t know anyone. I was completely out in the unknown. I was hesitant the rest of the day. Maybe I had made the wrong choice, maybe I shouldn’t have only applied to STU, I wonder how fast my mom could be back to pick me up?

Then we went to the Cheer Off. On that late summer evening in 2010, the Class of 2014 had already completely embraced their STU pride even though they’d only been a part of the community for a matter of hours. I was instantly sold. I knew made the right choice. I was exactly where I should be. Maybe your confirmation moment came later, but I’m sure you experienced it, or else you wouldn’t still be here.

Congratulations on having made it this far. I know it wasn’t easy. We’ve all faced and overcome personal challenges to be sitting in these chairs today. Maybe those challenges were academic, but for many of us, the greater challenges came outside the classroom. We’ve struggled mentally, financially, physically and emotionally. Who are we to underestimate the struggles of others? Much like our Men’s Volleyball team who overcame adversity and went on to win Atlantics and compete at nationals in our second year, these struggles are real and could have been crippling had we let them. We are convocating today because of our own efforts. Grads, be proud of yourselves and each other, and parents and families, I hope you’re proud of your children. We experienced some of the most important formative years of our lives here. We’ve been through upswings and downfalls, we’ve felt frustrations, joy, and heartbreak. We are graduating today as more developed human beings, and have many things to thank for that, among them STU.

Many of us arrived here out of high school with a set idea of what we wanted to do. We wanted to be teachers, lawyers, social workers and writers. We registered in courses that we thought would help us get there and quickly discovered what was for us and what wasn’t. We discovered courses, departments and programs we didn’t even know existed. STU broadened the horizons to what was possible for us. If you’re anything like me, you probably changed your major. If you’re a lot like me, you changed your major twice. Many of us are here today, graduating with degrees we hadn’t heard of four years ago. We are leaving not only having had professors who knew our names and cared about us, but with them as our mentors, confidants, cheerleaders and advisors.  Different professors will come to mind for everyone, but there are probably some common names bouncing through your heads, like Chris McCormack, Michelle LaFrance, Jamie Gillies and Scott Stapleford for those of us who survived Logic.

We will look back on our time here and remember that we all found a place where we belonged, whether that was on an athletic team, in a club, on the student’s union, within Residence Life or just in our own academic faculty. We all found a home in this close knit, vibrant community that gave us the freedom to experiment, take risks and find ourselves within a safe atmosphere. Whether we were exploring social injustices or reading the latest scandal in the Aquinian, such as last year’s “PizzaGate”, we broadened our understanding of world issues and we will carry that knowledge into our future education and career choices.  We will remember the people who had an impact on us and the places we frequented, and whether your social home base was your residence or the George Martin Cafeteria, this school was our home for four years, and though we are saying goodbye, I know this institution will have the same effect on future graduating classes for years to come.

We came to STU as kids, and we are leaving as adults. Think of how much you’ve changed in four years. You can cook without a microwave. You can write a quality 12-page paper in a matter of hours. You can stretch your stomach lining to consume more pizza than you ever thought humanly possible. You’ve defied the impossible and your bank account is even more empty than it was in high school.   You can get away with pretending you did the readings by throwing around terms like “gender roles” and “consumerism.” You have a semi-understanding of how health insurance works. You can binge watch entire seasons of shows on Netflix and still get everything done. You have enough pairs of underwear that you can avoid laundry for weeks. You own cutlery that’s not made of plastic. You’ve found the best secret, stealthy napping spots on campus. If these aren’t signs of success and adulthood, I don’t know what is.

Jokes aside, no matter what anyone tells you, nothing you learned here was pointless. If you found a subject you really liked, you hopefully pursued your newfound passion. If you took a course that you loathed, you now know what to avoid. Tying your shoes and discovering your likes and dislikes were integral parts of your development as fully functioning human beings.

As STU students, our last 4 years have been similar, but we are now heading off on entirely different paths. Some of us will go off to post-degree Grad programs, some of us will score dream jobs, some will travel and some of us will take time off. There is nothing wrong with figuring it out. Even if you now think you will never apply what you learned here and are heading off in an entirely different direction, at least now you know. Don’t be hard on yourself. At one point, you thought it was the right thing, and the only way we can learn is through experience. Throughout our life, we will continue to use the skills we developed from our liberal arts education in unexpected ways.

Many of us have no idea what is next for us. We are out in the unknown all over again, but it’s alright. Since we found our place here in the St. Thomas community, we have a much better idea of who we are as people, where our passions are and what we want out of life.

We entered today as students of St. Thomas University, and soon, we will exit as alumni.

Today, we leave the negative memories behind: no more exams, no more 4am paper writing, no more tuition payments, no more fighting for parking spots… but we also leave behind the good: no more cheer off, no more buckets, no more lost hours in JDH with friends…  From now on, it will become more difficult to see the people who have impacted and helped shape our lives over the past four years.  However, This is not the end. We have established life long friendships and we will continue to make efforts to connect with these people, no matter how much distance is between us.

So, Graduates of 2014, I wish you all the best. I hope you have a wonderful and beautiful life filled with happiness and that you will continue to overcome the bumps that the world throws at you. I hope you will all strive to extend the learning that started here at STU.

You are now better equipped to handle life, wherever it takes you.Best of luck and congratulations Class of 2014.

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