VP Dean's Message

Convocation VP Dean Gough with excited gradaute

Dear Graduating Class of 2020

Congratulations on completing your degree at the University of Toronto Scarborough.  As Dean most years I am on the platform of Convocation Hall sharing with you the formal ceremony.  Alas this in-person experience is one of the casualties of the battle we are waging against the global pandemic.  Nevertheless, your accomplishments are no less momentous and the UTSC community is very proud of you as you take this significant step in your life.

Some have spoken of our current circumstances with war imagery, because of similar emotions evoked by truly life-changing experiences and the loss of loved ones.  Of course, wartime brings with it horrors that are unimaginable to most of us, and it would be hard for me, in my comfortable house surrounded by my loved ones, to claim a true understanding of what being in a war zone is like.  However, as I read of my family experiences in wartime, I cannot help but see parallels to the types of personal strengths we are having to seek within ourselves.  My grandfather endured four years of trench warfare in the First World War. Toward the end of the war he received a commendation that read in part, “During an action he directed traffic over a newly made road. This road at this time was being heavily shelled, an ambulance was hit within forty yards of him.  He materially assisted in the getting forward of ammunition and engineer supplies.  He continued through the night under heavy bombing and machine-gun fire by enemy aeroplanes to direct the traffic. By his coolness and presence of mind he held the drivers to their work, kept the traffic moving, and so prevented a large loss of life.  During the whole of two days under constant heavy fire he continued to direct traffic and establish traffic control posts.”

I have reflected upon this commendation many times, particularly his “coolness and presence of mind” under such dire circumstances.  He was 21 or 22 at the time, a typical age for graduating students, like yourselves!  As you finished your final term, it may have seemed we were under the constant fire of uncertainty, with ephemeral directives and shifting expectations. I applaud you for your “coolness and presence of mind” over the last two months as you persevered to degree completion.

The COVID experience will be one that will be remembered for decades to come. You will be called upon to share your “war stories” by future generations, and yours will be the triumphant overcoming of adversity in an extraordinary time.  The COVID challenges persist; your example uplifts all of us.  It bodes well for your future success, and serves as an inspiration for your classmates who are continuing to work on completing their degrees.

May 25, 2020