THUNDER BAY – There were times Jordan Quinn doubted he would get to walk across stage to receive his university degree.
Despite the obstacles and struggles that he encountered along the way, Quinn was one of more than 900 Lakehead University students to receive degrees at their convocation ceremonies this weekend at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium. The university had close to 2,100 students receiving degrees this year.
He said this last year working on his honours thesis was a grind that he was not sure he would be able to get through, but now he has and is appreciative he can spend it with his family.
“I’m probably not as excited as my whole family but I’m pretty happy to be finally done and move on to bigger and better things,” Quinn said prior to receiving his honours bachelor of science degree in Geology on Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve got my dad in from out of town and he’s coming to celebrate. It’s going to be a day of fun family festivities.”
The anticipation for graduates to receive their degrees was evident throughout the lineups from various faculties.
Even though all of the work was completed, Loren Smyrsky still had a case of the butterflies before receiving her honours bachelor of science degree in Forestry.
“I’m so excited. I don’t really know why because I already wrote all my exams,” Smyrsky said.
As much as the day is about her receiving recognition, Smyrsky acknowledged it was special to have people close to her sharing in the celebration.
“It means a lot to me. They had my back the whole time. I deserve this day and they deserve to be here with me. They helped me through it so much.”
It’s those moments when graduates can celebrate with their families that makes the day special for university president and vice-chancellor Brian Stevenson.
“I love the interaction between the students and their families and I love the ceremony because it really brings together a lot of work and celebrates it,” Stevenson said.
“I think it is a time when we celebrate our students and bring our students together with their families so they can see what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done for the past three, four or five years.”
In addition to the degrees for students, the university awarded honorary degrees at each of their ceremonies.
The afternoon session presented honorary degrees to Bob Rae and Frank Iacobucci, the two chief negotiators for the Matawa First Nations for the Ring of Fire.
Since they took on their roles as negotiators both have been active working with post-secondary institutions and Rae says graduates from northern schools will play a significant role in the future of the province.
“The future of the far north is very much connected to education. The institutions right across the north of the province are going to provide an incredible opportunity for the young people of Matawa and the far north of the province,” Rae said.
Both men said they were grateful for the honour, though Iacobucci joked he was thankful he didn’t have to write any exams to receive it.
Stevenson says graduates will take note of the recipients of the honorary and it will become part of their memories from the ceremony.
“I think you will find most students who graduate will remember who had an honorary degree at their convocation. These things are very much at the heart of our students.”