Other convocation feature pages: 2002 | 2001
Convocation 2003 overview and photos | Address by the Graduate
Ever wonder what AU Convocation is like? Take a trip through memory lane for this retrospective of Convocation 2003.
Convocation 2003 took place on the weekend of June 13th (grad degrees) and 14th (undergrad degrees),
in Athabasca Alberta. The following description of the proceedings is taken from reports by Debbie Jabbour
- the current AUSU President who attended convocation as a graduate - and Sandra Moore - an AUSU councillor
who attended on behalf of council to interview graduating students and help organize convocation
programs. The complete text of Sandra’s and Debbie’s convocation experience can be found in The
Voice [v11 i24] and [v11 i25].
Pictures on this page were provided by Sandra Moore and Debbie Jabbour. If anyone has pictures
or memories from a past convocatoin that they would like included on the website, please send them to
Congratulations 2002-2003 Graduates!
Convocation 2003 began for undergraduates on Friday evening, when the "AU Alumni Association
invited all ’alumni’ (those who graduated from graduate programs that day and those who would receive
undergrad degrees the following day) to attend a meet-and-greet function in the Athabasca Best Western
The following morning, undergrads were treated to a free breakfast, sponsored by AUSU.
The meal consisted of pancakes, sausages, fruit, coffee and juice, and among the pancake
flippers and servers were AU’s president Dominique Abrioux, VP Judith Hughes, and VP Finance Pat
"Against the backdrop of AU’s cement pond that mesmerizes with its triple fountains, Juno
award winning Alberta-based family group The McDades impressed everyone with classical melodies and
up-beat Celtic tunes" (Moore).
After breakfast, students had a little time to wander AU’s massive and scenic grounds, explore
the university buildings, and mingle with other graduands. Some professors - such as Dietmar Kennepohl
of the science department - were on hand to greet students and to perform demonstrations.
In the graduating area, a "mini trade-fair of sorts was set up for the students including
the selling of graduation rings, the handing out of alumni packages, sales of AU merchandise (hoodies,
golf shirts and beanie babies with the AU logo and grad cap were their biggest sellers), degree frames
for sale, and hood sales... (a hood is what is placed over the graduates’ shoulders by the Registrar
just before they receive their degree on stage from AU’s President)" (Moore).
At 11:30, students were again treated by AUSU, this time to a free lunch of assorted salads,
meats, cheeses, pate, and decadent desserts prepared by the AU cafeteria staff.
Following lunch, students said goodbye to family and friends as they moved into the robing
room in preparation for the 1:00 PM ceremony.
"Here they are fitted into generic black gowns and AU VP Alan Davis takes time to review
each graduate’s name so that there are no mispronunciations when their name is announced on stage"
AUSU President and 2003 graduate Debbie Jabbour, recalls that once robed, graduates were
"grouped according to degree, then Dr. Davis and stage manager Jim D’Arcy gave us detailed instructions
on exactly where, when, and how, we were to walk and sit. Many of us were worried that we would not
be able to manage kneeling gracefully in our gowns when we were presented, so a stool was provided so
that we could practice.
"Names were double and triple-checked as we lined up and waited for the signal.
Although conversation in the room was hushed, the tension and excitement was tangible, faces beaming
with barely-suppressed elation. I knew what to expect from the rest of the procession, but I found
myself feeling equally as giddy as my fellow graduands. With a final ’we’re off!’, I heard the
strains of the bagpipes and we proudly marched forward onto the red carpet" (Jabbour).
"Students were then grouped into their area of study and marshalled by platform usher James
D’Arcy up the long, barren corridor and out the library doors.
"Once outside of the doors they followed a Scottish piper and AU registrar Gilbert Perras
carrying AU’s ceremonial mace - which is symbolic of the traditional ’talking stick’
commonly used by many indigenous people to express the authority and power of the group.
"The procession moved down a long red carpet covered by white canopies from which
enormous baskets of flowers are hung into the large red and white striped convocation tent.
"Filing down the long walkway into the tent, graduates searched for family members
along the rows of chairs as proud moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters and sons rapidly snapped off
photos of their loved ones as they proceeded past.
"Following the graduands were Governing Council members, academics, professional staff, tutors
and guests, and finally the platform party, which consists of the ’brass’ at AU, the honorary
doctorate recipient and the Chairman.
"After everyone was on stage, soloist Ida Edwards flawlessly performed the national anthem and the ceremonial mace was placed in its cradle of honor at center stage. The Chairman (of Governing Council), Robert Fulton welcomed everyone to convocation and gave a short speech on the accomplishments of AU" (Moore).
Mr. Fulton commented that "the very first graduation ceremony in 1977 had consisted of only two graduates – and yet the university had managed to mix up their names and award them the wrong degrees! The audience roared, and the tone was set for the rest of the afternoon. AU’s graduation ceremony is a very unique blend of formality, ceremony and ritual – balanced by a warm humanness, sense of humour, and individual recognition. These combine to make our graduation extremely special and unforgettable" (Jabbour).
"Once the speeches and formalities ended, the Bachelor of Arts graduates were called first to kneel down and have their hood placed upon their shoulders by the Registrar and then they proceeded to receive their degree from Dr. Abrioux. Next they were congratulated by the AU Governing Council Chair, as well as the BA Program Director...
"As each student was called a short biography of the student was read aloud by VP-Alan Davis" (Moore). "Although grads are asked a list of questions about what kinds of things they would like to say in their bio (who they thank, memorable moments, what they are looking forward to), a university writer prepares the actual wording... Dr. Davis has an amazing talent for pronouncing all the names perfectly, and he injects a bit of humour into the bio reading to make the whole experience that much more warm and enjoyable. This would be his final AU convocation, since he is moving to Niagara College to take on the role of VP Academic there" (Jabbour).
"As the students finished their procession and headed back to their seats on stage they were presented with a gift from AUSU - a koskin, faux leather portfolio emblazoned with the words ’Athabasca University Graduate 2003’ and the AUSU logo...
"After the final set of graduates from the Bachelor of Professional Arts left the stage, the Governor General’s Gold Medal was awarded to Christina Marie Patrick, who unfortunately could not attend convocation.
"Next up was a passionate, comedic, heart-felt graduate address by Calgary native Ramona DeRose (read the text of her address below) a Bachelor of Administration Graduate. Holding back tears and clearing her throat at times Ramona spoke of admiration for the AU staff and jokingly stated that she came to Athabasca to yes graduate but also to confirm that Athabasca University really did exist.
"Finally, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters was presented to Vicki Frances Gabereau by Dr. Jonathan Baggaley, Professor of Educational Technology in recognition of her outstanding contributions as a Canadian broadcaster and her ongoing dedication to promotion of the arts...
"Vicki was very humble in accepting her award as her son Morgan beamed at her from his front row seat, yet it was evident to see how very proud she was. Her biggest regret, as listed on her website, was not attending university or college...
"Dr. Gabereau urged students to take chances and do things they loved to do. ’Don’t postpone your life, live it.’
At the conclusion of her talk, AUSU President [and graduate] Debbie Jabbour was introduced to "present Dr. Gabereau with the gift on behalf of students" - an engraved wooden photo album."
"And that’s that, nearly 4 hours later, Chairman Robert Fulton thanked everyone for coming and said: ’Members of the audience are requested to rise and remain at their seats until the platform party and the graduates have departed.’
"The ceremonial mace was lifted from its stand by the Registrar; the piper began to play as he strode down the red carpet followed by the Registrar, AU President, and the other AU big shots on stage, Vicki Gabereau, Governing Council members, the Academics and finally the graduates. My favourite part of convocation was the ’Honour Guard.’ Everyone from the stage (minus the graduates), and all the tutors lined up on either side of the red carpet outside the tent and clapped as the graduates passed through. It must be such a defining moment as these students are honoured by their teachers in this way" (Moore).
|The Graduation Tent
|Hughes and Abrioux flip for the grads.
|Dietmar dazzles the crowd
|AUSU Sponsored Luncheon
|The Robing Room
|It’s almost time!
|The procession begins
|The red carpet
|The piper leads the way
|And then Gilbert with the Mace
|Debbie gets her degree!
|AUSU gift to graduates
|Address by the Graduate
|Honorary Doctor Vicky Gabereau
|Debbie presents Vicky with AUSU gift
|AUSU gift to Honorary Doctors
Address By The Graduate - by Ramona DeRose
Ramona DeRose was chosen to give this year’s Address by the Graduate. She has been
kind enough to allow us to reprint her speech for all AU students to read.
Members of the Platform Party
Ladies and Gentlemen
Today we celebrate the achievements of the graduating class of 2003. This day is an achievement
not only for the graduates, but also for the faculty and staff of Athabasca University, and for the
friends and family who supported us, and who encouraged us to put our studies ahead of their needs.
For many of us, this is the first time we’ve connected with other students, other than in
the dreaded exam rooms, and the first time we’ve met our tutors face-to-face. Distance learning can
at times be an isolating experience. You are in a classroom of one, responsible for setting your own
deadlines, and ever tempted by the proximity of distractions. We have had to be disciplined, and
committed to our own learning. Our education has taken place not in a lecture hall, but on the
telephone and over the Internet. At times, the distance learner feels like the only student to
agonize over a particularly difficult concept, the only one overwhelmed with term papers, projects,
and telephone quizzes. I am comforted to see just how many students have shared those experiences
with me. I admit I traveled to convocation not only to receive my degree, but to confirm that
Athabasca University actually exists!
As challenging as distance learning can be, without the programs offered by Athabasca, it
is doubtful whether many of us would be receiving our parchments at all. The Open University Concept
that Athabasca has pioneered makes education available to all, irrespective of distance or prior
academic qualifications. Breaking down barriers of time and space, Athabasca allows students from
around the world to fit education into their lives, and pace their studies according to their own
timetables. I am so proud to be graduating from an institution that stands for accessible learning
and equal educational opportunities for all students.
Distance learning is made possible through technology, but it is made enriching through
the efforts of the people at the other end of the telephone line. The faculty and staff of Athabasca
deserve our special recognition today. These fine instructors made the material come to life,
without benefit of personal interaction, or the reward of watching a student grasp a new concept.
They make themselves available year-round, and the first of the month is always the first day of
classes for them, one student at a time. On behalf of the graduating class, I thank you for your
diligence, your patience, your insights, and your commitment to our learning.
I must also recognize the sacrifices of the people who walked beside us on our journey. To
those of you who allowed us to pursue our goals, who encouraged us to study, who helped us make the
time in our busy lives to learn, thank you. Before I made the decision to return to school, I was
relating to a friend all the reasons why I shouldn’t pursue my degree. My best argument went something
like “But I’ll be forty years old by the time I’m finished!” My argument was defeated when my friend
replied, “and how old will you be if you don’t get your degree?” I registered the very next day.
Although the graduates are the ones being honored, we recognize that without our friends
and family behind us and beside us, we would not be here today. Thank you for the sacrifices you have
made so lovingly on our behalf. As my son remarked when I had written my last exam; "Hurray - we’re
Our journeys were certainly made easier by the support we received. But let us also
recognize that the students on this stage wholly committed themselves to learning, and to seeing the
challenge through to the end. Although we are a diverse student body, separated by distance, we are
connected by the desire to learn and to become more than what we were before.
I am reminded of a day last fall when, deeply immersed in the agonies of Economics 248, my
little boy approached me. He stood for a moment, contemplating my pile of books, and the look of pure
misery on my face. He said, "Mommy, why do you have to study?" Anticipating a plea for the playground,
I replied, "because I have lots of work to do". He shook his head and said "No, Mommy. I mean, why do
you want to do school? Mommies know everything." Now, I admit I had no desire to disabuse him of this
notion. Here was the one person on the planet who actually thought I was all-knowing. In just a few
years he would be convinced I knew nothing at all. But the innocence of his question demanded more
than just a wise nod. "Well", I said, "you know how you keep trying to score a goal in soccer? You
work so hard, and you practice, and even though you haven’t scored yet, you keep trying? Why do you
do that?" He thought for a moment, and said "because I wanna get better". I nodded. "Me too". Our
desire to "get better", to be become more, know more, do more, has seen us through the challenges of
More than a hundred years ago, Robert Louis Stevenson said "to become what we are capable
of becoming is the only end in life." And although we are celebrating the end of our days as
undergraduates, we must recognize that the commitment to learning, and the desire to become what we
are capable of becoming is our true achievement. For it is in the striving that we learn, and in the
struggle for knowledge that we reveal our true potential.
To my fellow graduates: congratulations. May the courage and perseverance you’ve shown to
get here today see you through the challenges ahead, and may you continue to achieve your dreams.
May you become all you are capable of becoming.
Thank you to Ramona for allowing us to print her Address by the Graduate