Congratulations 2000-2001 Graduates!
Convocation in Athabasca was held this year on June 8th for the Masters Programs and on June 9th for the awarding of Undergraduate
degrees. I was very impressed by the convocation activities that surrounded the actual ceremony, as well as with the reverence and import
given to the ceremony itself.
As a degree graduate of a traditional University setting, I was amazed not only by the pomp and ceremony, but by the huge amount of
time and effort that was obviously spent in making the occasion special for all those involved. It was beautifully decorated, the University
grounds were filled with flowers and the tent holding the Convocation ceremony was complete with red carpet, a massive decorated stage,
hundreds of chairs awaiting the excited audience, and even water stations for the comfort of the guests. Each of the graduates was robed in
beautifully fitted gowns, and marched down the aisle to the elegant piping of Ken McDonald.
The opening remarks by Robert Fulton, Chair of Athabasca University Governing Council, paid tribute the journeys these students
had made as individuals "travelling through different and difficult circumstances to arrive at this remarkable milestone." The mayor of
Athabasca, Lionel Cherniwchan, also made a speech commending the graduates on their successes; especially since their degrees were
hard-won through distance learning, many of them supporting families with full-time jobs and raising children; he noted that obtaining a degree
through Athabasca University must "be recognized as something special."
The president’s address of Dominique Abrioux also admired the graduates as being "independent learners who juggle career, home
and life’s responsibilities;" all attributes which would further their successes in the world and ready them for the future. Dominique also noted
that AU’s number of graduates have increased by 11% in this year, for a total of 125% over the last five years; Athabasca University has
proven it’s worth and become a "national and international leader in its chosen field" of distance education.
The winner of the Governor General Silver Medal this year was BeLinda Michelle Roscoe from Kingston, Ontario. BeLinda was also
chosen as the valedictorian to deliver the Graduate’s Address. An inspiring and positive speech was given by this active and determined
graduate, wishing all a prosperous and happy future; her message to those graduating, and those who have this goal for the future is: "This is
not the last road that you travel, but the first of many!"
The Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters was awarded this year to Maria Campbell, in honour of her life-long endeavours to promote
Métis culture, traditions and politics, and to advance Métis people’s issues, concerns, and priorities in Canada. Maria is also an honorary
elder for the National Métis Women’s Group, and one of her novel’s "Half-Breed" is included in an English 400 class of AU’s. Maria gave an
emotional and heartfelt speech about the Métis, and Athabasca University’s support in making education available and open for all students;
her eloquence brought tears to many an eye, and the standing ovation she received when presented with her doctorate came from the hearts
of everyone present.
The Student’s Union did more than ever before to ensure that this event was memorable and special for the graduates and their
friends and families. As per usual, the Student’s Union provided the huge buffet luncheon for all attending; a veritable feast of all sorts of
delicious temptations, including a massive cake made with the Student’s Union logo.
This year, however, your Student’s Union made a point of playing an active role in the festivities surrounding graduation. There was a
free breakfast buffet for the grads and their guests held at the Best Western hotel on Saturday morning.
The festivities began before noon on Campus, where the Student’s Council had arranged for the White Buffalo Dancers shared Native
stories while performing traditional dance in full regalia. After the convocation ceremonies, the White Buffalo Dancers did a second
performance beside the Athabasca University fountain, and soon had everyone (even your University President, Dominique Abrioux) up and
dancing in the Friendship Circle. This was followed by a musical and story performance of Amanda Woodrow telling the tale of a young Indian
princess being wooed by the music of several warriors seeking her hand in marriage.
This year, the Student’s Union also provided a gift for all the graduates: a print of the Red Fox done by a local Athabascan artist by
the name of Judy Gauthier. The Council hand picked the painting and had a limited edition lithograph print made for the graduates and staff
as a memento of the events, and as a special marker as being one of this year’s graduates. Adam Heighes, the new president of AUSU,
presented the original painting, beautifully framed, to Maria Campbell, the receiver of the Honorary Doctorate Degree following Amanda
Although many of the guests were beginning to wrap up their own long day, the Student’s Council had more planned for those who
wished to stay.
There was a buffet supper provided, and then Lonesome AND Then Some were scheduled to play until well unto the evening.
Although the crowd was thinning, the band played their hearts out to the much appreciative crowd. Many thanks must be given to all who
were involved to make this even the special and successful even that it was; Athabasca University staff and your Student’s Union (who would
like to offer a special THANK-YOU to Anne Humphries of the AU staff for her huge part in helping the Student’s Union organize and finalize
the special events) did a fantastic job in making this event memorable and festive to fit the importance of the occasion.
Once again, CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES, and may your hard work and success be an inspiration to us all!
Lonesome and Then Some