University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Graduation Day

Alumni recall the joy, excitement – and relief – of earning their U of T degree

The Convocation Dash

I am a four-time graduate of the University of Toronto. Each convocation has its special moments, but my favourite occurred during my first. My uncle, Harry Fisher (BEd 1955, MEd 1958, PhD 1975), was Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Education at the time. A meeting prevented him from attending my convocation, but he posted an administrative assistant at a window with a view of King’s College Circle, with the order to tell him the moment that the line of graduates began to walk across the field to Convocation Hall. When he got word that we were on the move, he sprinted the several hundred metres from Bay and Wellesley, arriving breathless to congratulate me just before I entered the hall and then turned around and sprinted back. It was the best graduation present of any!

The Rev. Dr. C. Mark Steinacher
BA 1978, MDiv 1983, ThM 1992, ThD 1999

An Immigrant Father’s Dream

My father came to Canada from China in 1956. When I was a young boy, he talked to me often about the importance of getting an education and going to university. “You can become anything you want in this country,” he said. He saw Canada as a land of opportunity – something he’d never had growing up in China. At my convocation in 1986, I could see the happiness in my father’s eyes. He was beaming from ear to ear. As I stood on the podium, I glanced over at him sitting beside my mother in his plaid suit and mismatched tie. Nothing could contain his pride. As I was about to receive my diploma, I suddenly realized that this day was as much his moment as it was mine.

David Lim
BA 1986 St. Mike’s

A Name to Stand By

I graduated from Scarborough College with a BA in 1970. While there, I got to know the principal, Wynne Plumtree, an outgoing man with a mischievous sense of humour. When he read out my name in Convocation Hall, he did so with special emphasis: “Dale Michael LeMercier DuQuesnay!” A gentleman sitting in the audience behind my mother snorted, “Good God! Can you imagine giving your son a name like that!” Without missing a beat, my mother, who has always been a no-nonsense person – at 96, she now lives with us – promptly turned to the man and declared, “That is my son!” The man didn’t utter another word for the rest of the ceremony.

Dale M.L. DuQuesnay, CFP
BA UTSC 1970
Guelph, Ontario

Full Circle

On June 10, 2003, I graduated from U of T, Scarborough. As I stood at University College waiting with hundreds of others, I suddenly felt overcome with emotion. My very long and personal journey to convocation had started 20 years earlier on the St. George campus.

I first enrolled at Uof T through the Transitional Year Programme in 1983. At the time I was a 30-year-old mother of two girls and married to “the boy next door.” I was both excited and terrified, and felt a little like Rita in the movie Educating Rita – traveling daily to classes in high heels. I decided that it would be better for my family if I attended classes closer to home, so I transferred to Scarborough for my second year. After picking up the girls from school, I’d bring them back to the studio where I rehearsed. Much to my horror, they would crawl around on the catwalks high above me. They were 10 and 12 and loved being at “Mom’s school.”

My life changed drastically that year. On June 10, 1986, my husband of 13 years was killed in a horrific accident. I picked up my life the best I could under the circumstances and returned to U of T, but failed to get all the credits I needed. Twenty years later, on the eve of my 50th birthday, I e-mailed an old professor, who encouraged me to sign up for a new class he was teaching about writing for the theatre. This time I made it all the way through.

As I stepped inside Convocation Hall, I searched the crowd for my girls, now in their thirties. They were in the highest balcony, waving frantically at me – just as they had done from the catwalk in my drama class so long ago. I will never forget the look on the girls faces as they called out “Hi Mom.” I finally felt complete.

Laura Lyford Rickards
BA 2003 UTSC

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  1. One Response to “ Graduation Day ”

  2. Christine McFarlane says:

    Completing my undergraduate degree was not my first attempt at a post-secondary education, so graduating is definitely something I feel very proud of. I was out of school for many years due to health issues, when about five or six years ago, a support worker brought me to First Nations House to meet with an academic counsellor about returning to school.

    This was when I was encouraged to enroll in the Academic Bridging Program through Woodsworth College at the University of Toronto St. George Campus. I successfully completed the Academic Bridging Program and entered Aboriginal Studies. At first I was attending classes on a part-time basis but as I grew more used to my classes I switched to full-time studies. Once I undertook a full-time course load, it was like wings were given to me and I took flight.

    Graduating is a dream come true. There were many times that I believed I would not make it make it through, but the support along the way from various people in my life helped make it easier for me. I felt especially encouraged by the staff at First Nations House, and professors such as Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Daniel Heath Justice, Lee Maracle and writer in residence Cherie Dimaline.

    To share in my graduation day, friends from California who have witnessed my road back to health came to see me graduate and so did my teenage niece and her father.

    I feel complete because getting my degree represents a long journey and the beginning of a new one. My degree not only represents the struggle, the tears and the triumphs it took to get me to where I am today, but it also represents my dream of overcoming adversity and succeeding when I least expected to.