Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner June 9, 2022
Columnist to receive an honorary doctorate from Trent Thursday.
This is a big week for college graduates everywhere, and particularly here in Peterborough. It is a week of six convocations for Trent students. Two of these convocations are in Oshawa.
Of all the unlikely things, I am one of these graduates. Member of the Class of 2022. Yesiree.
Needing a speaker for each of these six ceremonies, Trent has invited me to come and receive an honorary doctorate-of-laws on Thursday. Then I speak for a few minutes, “inspiring” the 200 grads, who are coming from teacher education, international development and ecological studies. All my favorite disciplines. And to their proud parents and friends.
This is a complete and delightful surprise in my ninth decade. The invitation, from President Leo Groarke, really reaches into the community where Trent resides and enlightens. I greatly value scholarship and I know something of the intense labors put in by bright people who spend years becoming worthy of a doctor’s degree in their field of study.
But for me, I took a general B.A. at the U of T in the 1950's, earning, as I remember, a B average, my highest mark being in philosophy. Then, years later, I got an M.Ed at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, also in Toronto.
I don’t recall a thing about the first graduation in 1958, but I do recall my last graduation at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto in 1983. That ceremony had a huge number of students filling the vast hall. Many of us left right after shaking hands with the president and receiving our scrolls.
I don’t remember being inspired, or the name of the speaker for the occasion. “Workmanlike” would describe it. I do remember some stimulating courses and discussions among the many mature students who brought life experience to class, and were my colleagues.
I remember two episodes in class. In the first, the professor, after I contributed some comment to discussion, reminded me, “No personal testimony please.”
That was a kind of silencing, because all my thinking proceeds from personal experience, along with other inputs.
I recall another remark in the class of a very progressive professor named Edmund Sullivan. “I have a cottage near Bancroft,” he said with a grin. “You must be the red princess of Peterborough.” I took that as a compliment.
Now, 39 years later, without having done a bit of work or worry normally necessary for a PhD, I get a doctorate. The family is greatly amused. One brother said: “We have always needed a doctor in the family. Right now, I have a sore throat.”
On Facebook, I asked friends what I should say to these graduates of 2022. Twenty thoughtful people replied. “Just praise them for making it through the hard challenges of the pandemic,” one said.
And another: “Tell them that they enter a world that is confused and hurting and threatened. Don’t avoid that reality.”
Yet another: “Be hopeful for the future.”
I was thankful for these insights. They mirror my own. I will include advice that they engage with their society to resist the threats to democracy coming from so much disinformation and lack of critical thought. I will ask them to aspire to simple lifestyles, living lightly on the earth. No fancy houses. I will recommend building radically equal relationships, if they choose to have a partner. Creating and appreciating the arts.
Then I’ll recommend constant reading, books and journals, starting with the 2011 book, “Tom Symons: A Canadian Life.” In it, twenty writers appreciate the enormous contributions of this great Canadian, who died in 2021. He was the founding president of Trent University and lived in Peterborough for sixty years, while advancing Indigenous Studies, research into the north, relations among French and English, and United World Colleges, to name a few.
One of my sons teaches at a school where the motto is “Grit and Joy.” These graduates next week will need plenty of the former. May they also have lots of the latter.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<