2019 Fredericton Encaenia - Ceremony A

Graduation Address

Delivered by: Montague, Susan Guilford


Distinguished leaders, honoured guests, parents, friends, family, colleagues and fellow graduates...

Wow! I can find no better word to express my immense joy, pride and gratitude for having been recognized with an honorary degree from the University of New Brunswick.

I wish my mother could have been here today. No doubt she would have been pleased, but she could also have told this story better than I can. When my mother was newly married, she went to a fortune teller, to find out what her married life would bring her. The fortune teller predicted, among other things, that one of her children would become a university president. Well, this is as close as either my brother or I ever got. And as close as I ever want to get.

During my years at UNB I’ve known seven UNB presidents, two former and five with whom and for whom I’ve had the privilege to work. Believe me, being a university president is no easy task. So I’d like to take a moment this morning to acknowledge the contributions of President Eddy Campbell. He will be stepping down at the end of June after ten very successful and productive years in office.

Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of Eddy Campbell. Lead applause.

UNB has had 18 presidents since it was founded in 1785. Their trials and tribulations tell an interesting story. There was, for example, poor James Somerville, president of what was then called the College of New Brunswick. He was popular with the students. He awarded our first bachelor’s degrees to three graduates in 1828, but he was let go the next year, owed 2,000 pounds in salary.

He was followed by Edwin Jacob. President Jacob’s rigid adherence to classical curriculum and religious studies managed to alienate just about everyone in the province--to the point where the legislature threatened to close down what was by then known as King’s College.

Though he caused a lot of conflict, we owe a debt to Edwin Jacob. Without him, UNB wouldn’t exist. Because of the uproar, the lieutenant-governor of the day, Sir Edmund Head, convened a commission which recommended the establishment of the University of New Brunswick. That is what we became in 1859, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the past 160 years, every succeeding president has done his or her best to strengthen and grow this institution. The focus of study became more practical. New disciplines were introduced. The study of Science was already considered foundational, but became increasingly sophisticated and diversified. The program in Forestry, only the second in Canada, was established in 1908 by C.C. Jones, UNB’s longest-serving president. The School of Nursing was begun in 1959 during the term of Colin B. Mackay, UNB’s youngest ever president.

One of the key factors in the success of our presidents, and perhaps especially of Eddy Campbell who recently completed UNB’s largest ever fundraising campaign for $125 million, has been philanthropy, support provided to the university by alumni, friends, businesses and foundations. The first scholarship at UNB was created in 1883 by the widow of Lemuel Wilmot, who wrote the bill that transformed King’s College into the University of New Brunswick in 1859. Since that time, millions and millions of dollars have been generously donated to UNB for a wide variety of projects and programs.

To emphasize this point, I’d like to conduct a little demonstration.

I invite all the graduates to stand—you probably need a stretch right now anyway. Pause.

I’m going to administer a little quiz. If your answer is yes, please sit down:

Please sit down if you have ever received a scholarship, bursary or a prize...
If you have ever visited or done work in the Quartermain Earth Sciences Centre in the Forestry Geology Building...
If you have done a practicum at the Fredericton Downtown Health Centre...
If you have taken part in courses or done research with the Canadian Rivers Institute...
If you have ever been in here in the Currie Center before today to work out, attend a varsity basketball or volleyball game, play a sport or participate in a URec activity...
If you have ever attended an event at the Aitken University Centre...
If you have participated in a program offered by the Pond-Deshpande Centre or the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship...
If you have ever been to the Wu Conference Centre...
If you have ever attended a Toole or a Priestman Memorial Lecture...
If you have ever swum in the Max Aitken pool in the Lady Beaverbrook Gym...
If you have ever used any of the UNB libraries...
If there is anyone left, turn around and have a look at the Fred Ross mural, Destruction of War and Rebuilding the World Through Education...recreated through donations.

As you can see, living proof of the impact philanthropy has had on this university. And when the time comes, I ask you too, as proud graduates of this University, to join the ranks of philanthropists to the greatest extent you can.

When I graduated from Bryn Mawr College, almost 50 years ago, I’m sure there was a speaker at the ceremony, but I can’t for the life of me remember who it was. And I’m not expecting you to remember me either, 50 years hence, maybe not even 50 minutes hence. But I would like to leave you with three principles that have stood me in good stead throughout my career and which I hope will stay with you in the years ahead.

The first is, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Repeat.

This precept has been attributed to former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, but it probably goes back a lot further. It’s fair to say this idea has been the bedrock of my professional life: keep your focus on the goal and not the glory.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Second is, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Repeat.

Said to be an African proverb, this adage reminds us that much more can be achieved through teamwork and collaboration. Whatever I’ve accomplished in my life, whatever I am being honoured for today, it is thanks to all of the dedicated colleagues, past and present, especially my staff colleagues, with whom I’ve been privileged to work at this University. This degree recognizes not only my contributions but also theirs, and it is only on this basis that I felt justified in accepting it.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Third, there is an organization called 100 People that has been around since the 1990s. Their interesting website can be found at 100people.org. They distill global statistics down to a more comprehensible level as if there were just 100 people in the world. For example, if there were 100 people in the world, 86 would be able to read and write; 14 would not. More to the point here, if there were 100 people in the world, only seven would have a university degree. Only seven.

Because of this, I want to wish you luck. Not just any old, run-of-the-mill, find a four-leaf clover, fortune cookie kind of luck. No, I wish you the kind of luck Oprah Winfrey describes as, “When preparation meets opportunity.” Repeat.

You’re among those seven out of 100 in the world who have a university degree. You’re prepared; now go meet opportunity.

Thank you.

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