2500 Handshakes

As Acting Dean of Arts this year, I had the honour and great pleasure of shaking somewhere between 2000 and 2500 hands of individual students as they crossed the stage to graduate this past week. As always, I delighted in seeing our students’ and their families’ pride and joy and I suspect in some cases simply relief. I am always inspired by the graduating student’s speech at each ceremony. And I continue to be amazed by the graduates’ shoes — this year men’s and women’s! — and their ability to get across the stage in one piece (though the President caught one graduate as she started to topple over.)

Meeting and speaking to each student individually this year gave me some new close-up insights. I was delighted that there were quite a few students who seem to be gender fluid or non-binary. I look forward to how many more there will be as our society’s acceptance and respect for gender difference increases.

I was reminded of how incredibly diverse our student body is. This is not the relatively homogeneous Canada I grew up in 50 years ago, and that is a glorious thing to witness.

I was heartened by the beating of a drum by Aboriginal faculty as each Aboriginal student crossed the stage.

And, it’s amazing how much culture and personality are reflected simply in how each graduate walks (teeters, strides, swaggers) across the stage, and how they shake hands (gently, warmly, fiercely, on occasion bone-crushingly).

This is a photo of my favourite moment in each ceremony, as the graduates turn and wave to say thank you to their families and friends.

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