Grant hall, queen’s university 2013

Goodbye, Class of 2013.

A personal reflection on the past few years and best wishes to your futures.

Over the next two weeks there will be seventeen convocation ceremonies, sixteen of which will happen in Grant Hall and only one will occur inside the main gym of the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre. I wanted to write something brief that would put into words my gratitude to the class of 2013. 

In retrospect, the past few years have been unprecedented, if not truly extraordinary. Though, I must admit that I had expected this from the day I stepped foot onto this campus for the first time.

If you accidentally clicked “join” on the Class of 2017 Facebook group, you will be well aware of the fresh and almost naive excitement that the incoming class has been exhibiting through their introductory posts. Irrespective of your opinion on the group’s activity it does evoke a reflection of what we were like in 2009, both on social media sites and off. I am immediately reminded of the week we arrived in Kingston, where we wandered about campus bumping into new friends and exchanging Blackberry PINs. We had a stunningly warm week for our frosh events to take place. The campus was ours for the taking and as I remember, we took it with gusto and for the first time many of us felt a sense of belonging that we had longed for when we chose Queen’s. 

Grad Bash 2013

Surely, we were not entirely unique, as we have seen each class that followed ours come to this school with a similar passion and spirit for Queen’s. I like to think, however that we, as any other class has done, brought our own distinguished brand and flavour to Queen’s and its student life. Of course, we learned a great deal from our upper-year counterparts, which contributed to our understanding of this place and of life itself. Hopefully, we were able to provide a similar type of mentorship to new students that served to support and inspire them.

Fortunately, much has happened since that fateful week in September 2009 and I could not possibly capture it all in this “brief” post. Throughout all of the positive moments and challenges we faced at Queen’s, I think it is safe to say that we confronted them together. We came to Queen’s to learn and there may be few who could argue that they will leave this school without having gained any profound knowledge or wisdom. Personally, this experience has supplied me with innumerable lessons. I’d like to highlight just a few of them that I will take with me and that I hope resonate with your experience also:

  1. Inclusivity is an infallible concept that will always serve you well. I cannot recall a moment in time where the inclusion of others was damaging, alienating, or negative. You will earn trust and respect from others if you make this an important part of how you live your life.
  2. To earn respect, you must give it first. Respect is not always free, as you’re likely aware by now if you have ever taken on any type of management or leadership role. You must respect others if you would like them to respect you. I would love to tell you that this will always work and that others will be respectful in return, alas this will not always be the case. Do not get discouraged and remember that it is better to be respectful and loving to all regardless of how they choose to respond. 
  3. Embrace failure. On a micro level at Queen’s you have seen the effects of a risk averse approach to issues. Prepare yourself for this aversion to risk to be present in a variety of areas in our society, as it has become a defining part of our society’s culture on a macro level. When I have been invited to speak at high table dinners, I will often explain how in my own life I have experienced immense failures and have had to make tough choices on how to cope with them. However, victory has been far more satisfying after the first, second, or more failures. You gain the opportunity to face your mistakes head on and learn from them. In the end, this is the transcendent contribution that education provides for our success.
  4. You do not always know what goes on behind closed doors. Be unassuming and considerate to others, especially when you do not know them well. Though sometimes the words that come out of your mouth are not deemed offensive or sensitive to you, it may well be to someone else in your nearby surroundings. This is not always easy and you won’t always be able to avoid hurting someone else with your words, but it is something to keep in mind when you spend time with people who are new to you.
  5. Look out for one another. I have observed that one of the cardinal values that is shared among students and alumni at Queen’s is our sense of responsibility for each other. Our student pubs and non-academic discipline systems are emblematic of this shared responsibility that has been upheld for over a century. If you have had any interaction with our alumni population you probably have stories of your own where they offered to help you in some way or another. I implore you to keep this value dear to your heart. Whenever you come across a fellow Queen’s grad in your travels, reminisce and see if you can offer them support or a place to stay. 

Keep those words of wisdom in mind. Your life and the life of others will surely be enhanced as a result of this. I ought to bring this piece to a close and let you go on your merry way. Before I do finish writing, indulge me once more in a personal reflection on the last few years. 

I chose to apply to and accept Queen’s as my university for two reasons: 

  1. To be a peer of phenomenally intelligent and well-rounded individuals with a common goal to learn and aspire to greatness.
  2. The selection process was unique and provided me with comfort in knowing that I would, in fact, find the most amazing people here at Queen’s. 

Perhaps, it is for these two reasons that I have spent four years seeking to get to know so many of you and have found sincere joy through this. My Queen’s experience has been defined by the people I have met and come to know as my friends and family. This may be why I have been dreading the arrival of June 3rd and the subsequent days of convocation ceremonies. I am afraid that I am not ready to say goodbye to all of you, but I am more than prepared to say congratulations and thank you. 

Let me end with what you will likely hear at your ceremony:

A good friend of mine once said that “as Queen’s students, we must earn our history.” Reflect for a moment, on the rich and full history of Queen’s that you have been hearing about since you picked up that viewbook a few years ago. This is an institution that has a prominent reputation built on its people. Your stories of Queen’s are not just your own, they are now a piece of this place and in the hearts of fellow graduates and friends.  
When you leave campus on your day of Convocation, may you know that you have earned your history. Every minute, hour, and day you spent on this campus partaking in the various extracurricular activities, fulfilling academic responsibilities, participating in varsity athletics, and/or engaging in social matters. This has all contributed greatly to the invaluable community aspect of the Queen’s Experience. 
Congratulations and thank you.
See you on the stage!

Princeps Servusque Es,

Nicholas Francis

Be a leader and a servant.