Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

"A Celebration of Achievement and Triumph Over Challenge:" StFX Confers Degrees, Diplomas at 2019 Fall Convocation.

December 1st, 2019
StFX welcomed over 200 new graduates to the Xaverian Family at the 2019 Fall Convocation ceremony, held Dec. 1.

Spirits were high in the Charles V. Keating Centre as family, friends and loved ones gathered to watch the newest group of StFX graduates receive their degrees and diplomas at StFX’s 2019 Fall Convocation, held December 1.

StFX conferred over 200 degrees and diplomas during the ceremony, spanning programs at the diploma, bachelor, and masters level. The hard work and perseverance displayed by graduates over their course of studies was noted by Dr. John Peacock ‘63, University Chancellor.

“I have no doubt that each of you bring a unique story of struggle, challenge and achievement. I hope as you reflect on your journey, you will also reflect on those who provided you with support, encouragement, and love while you worked to get here. I hope you take the time to thank them.”

He also challenged graduates to consider how they will make the world “a better, safer, and happier place.”

“Your generation is fighting against the destruction my generation has caused,” said Dr. Peacock. “Climate change, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. I urge you to think carefully about the role you’ll play.

“And I hope that StFX has formed you into the type of person who won’t run away from a challenge.”

Dr. Peacock’s comments were seconded by Dr. Kevin B. Wamsley, President and Vice-Chancellor of StFX, who noted, of all the events that take place each year at StFX, Convocation is his favourite.

“Convocation is a celebration of the belief that an academic degree means something. That the creation and dissemination of knowledge provides hope for future, and prepares us to take on the challenges that confront us.”

Dr. Wamsley also noted many of the new graduates who already don an X-Ring, and implored them to “remember what the ring celebrates.”

“Use your StFX degree to build bridges between people to solve problems in this great country. We are at a time of great polarization and disagreement. Build bridges to help us find our way.”

StFX awarded an honorary degree to Dr. Helen Vari, a Canadian philanthropist and the President of the George and Helen Vari Foundation. Dr. Vari has been a lifelong supporter of education, academic research and the preservation of cultural heritage.

In her remarks to students and guests, Dr. Vari, who identified herself as a “Hungarian refugee,” recalled an act of kindness on behalf of StFX that forever shaped her family’s life.

In the fifties, StFX established a Hungarian Refugee Fund to support newcomers from the country who were arriving in Canada. The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney ‘59, then a StFX student, travelled to Montreal on behalf of the university to disperse the funds to Mr. George Vari, Helen’s husband – and a refugee newcomer himself. In addition to the funds, Mr. Mulroney also took his own winter coat and gave it to Mr. Vari, recognizing he did not yet have one of his own.

It was a small act of kindness that made an enormous impact on the Vari family.

“This is not only generosity – this is humanity,” said Dr. Vari. “This is your university, and this is our wonderful Canada. I cannot thank you ever enough.”

She also encouraged the new graduates to exemplify this same kind spirit in their own lives.

“Be good. Do whatever you can for other people, whether a smile or a dollar. And know that, in our wonderful country of Canada, everything is possible. Whatever you decide, you can do it!”

Also honoured during the ceremony were StFX biology lab instructor Regina Cozzi, recipient of the 2019 Outreach Award, and Lindsey Arnold, Instructor with StFX’s Continuing & Distance Education department and Student Success Centre, who received the 2019 Outstanding Staff Teaching Award.

S.A.F.E. (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace) received the 2019 Community Partner Award in recognition for their tireless work to give Syrian families displaced by conflict the opportunity to rebuild their lives in Antigonish. StFX and S.A.F.E. are proud to have a strong partnership, which has created many opportunities for learning and the exchange of ideas and talents. 

New graduate Kyle Sarka, who is originally from Inverness, N.S. and received his Master of Education at the ceremony, delivered the graduating class address. He noted that when he enrolled in StFX as an undergraduate student, many of the new student facilities developed in recent years were still a dream.

“But the culture of this university is timeless, and what I learned from being part of this culture is that Xaverians are a family. And as you look back, remember that it was all worth it.”

Marc Rodrigue, president of the StFX Alumni Association, extended congratulations to the new graduating class on behalf of entire StFX alumni network. He also encouraged them to use their experiences at StFX to make the world a better place and to inspire positive change, wherever and whenever possible.


2019 Honorary Degree recipient

Dr. Helen Vari

Helen Vari is an eminent Canadian philanthropist and the President of the George and Helen Vari Foundation. Throughout her life, she has supported student scholarships, academic research and the preservation of cultural heritage. Mrs. Vari was educated in both Austria and Hungary. She came to Canada, where she married her late husband The Honourable George W. Vari. Mr. Vari established the engineering and construction company SEFRI Construction International. She has been a lifelong supporter of education, committed to ensuring students of all abilities and backgrounds have opportunities to study. The George and Helen Vari Foundation was created in 1984 to promote education in Canada and cultural and educational exchange, and it has provided philanthropic gifts to a number of institutions. Mrs. Vari is also a primary financial contributor through the Vimy Foundation to the construction of the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. She has been a member of many organizations, including the Vimy Foundation; The Canada Council for the Arts, Alliance Francaise de Toronto, Maison des étudiants Canadiens at the University of Paris, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, and the Leukemia Research Foundation of Canada, among many others. She is the Founding President of the World Monuments Fund in France, a Foundation dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. Mrs. Vari's contributions have been widely recognized. She is a member of the Order of Canada. She has received prestigious honours, including: Commander, Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France), Dame Commander of Merit of the Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta; Queen Elizabeth II 50‘Anniversary Golden Jubilee and 60" Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Medals; Officier du Mérite National (France); and honorary doctorates from York University, Ryerson University, Victoria University, University of Toronto, and the University of Ontario Institute and Technology.


2019 Outreach Award

Regina Cozzi

Lab Instructor, Biology

Regina Cozzi has been a member of the StFX community since 2000, first as a research assistant and now as a laboratory instructor in the Biology Department. Mrs. Cozzi is extremely dedicated to her outreach work for both the department and the local community. Her efforts have engaged and educated thousands of children in the region. For years she has promoted ocean literacy to youth and adults through numerous outreach workshops, both in English and in French. Since 2013, Mrs. Cozzi has organized the department’s annual World Oceans Day (WOD) event, which promotes ocean awareness to the general public, especially to younger generations. This highly anticipated educational event draws over 1,000 people annually and has lasting impacts. Mrs. Cozzi also launched the Bio-Outreach website for the Biology Department and created an organized online data entry to keep track of the department’s outreach activities, currently benefiting approximately 2,000 youth annually. In addition, she volunteers as a judge at regional science fairs and at the StFX Student Research Day. She contributes to women in STEM, volunteers with the West River 4-H Club as waterfowl leader, collaborates with X-Chem to facilitate ocean literacy activities during Science Literacy Week and helps facilities summer camps and school visits. Ms. Cozzi’s strong community involvement can also be seen through her blog, Country Parent, promoting local activities for children, since 2012. Mrs. Cozzi holds a MSc in environmental immunotoxicology from the Université du Québec.

2019 Outstanding Staff Teaching Award

Lindsey Arnold

Instructor, Continuing & Distance Education and Student Success Centre

Lindsey Arnold joined StFX in 2017 as an instructor for the Student Success Centre and for Continuing and Distance Education. She brought with her a student-centered and inclusive teaching philosophy that grew out of research she did in earning her Master of Arts in education at the University of Toronto OISE, and also out of her diverse contributions to the field of education, including running a vibrant tutoring business and developing transformative curriculum overseas. Her accomplishments at StFX include developing and delivering various face-to-face and online workshops and courses as well as one-on-one instruction. Her pedagogy emphasizes student-centered, active and holistic learning alongside direct instruction delivered through multiple modes in order to ensure accessibility, inclusivity, and engagement. As an essay writing and learning skills instructor, she teaches students from different disciplines and backgrounds, many of whom are struggling to succeed at university. One of her colleagues describes the “positive influence” she has on her students and states that, “Lindsey is a particularly favoured instructor at the SSC, and students actively seek her out to work with them. This is because Lindsey is a caring and compassionate instructor who advocates for the academic and personal success of all students who visit the centre.” Her contributions to the intellectual life at StFX and the academic skills of StFX graduates have earned her recognition as an outstanding teacher.

2019 Community Partner Award

SAFE (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace)

Since its inception, SAFE (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace), which works to give Syrian families a chance to rebuild their lives in Antigonish, has inspired countless people with the power of community relationships. From the start, StFX and SAFE have had a strong partnership that has created many opportunities for the exchange of ideas, talents and learning. Together, SAFE and StFX have organized or co-sponsored several events for sharing knowledge, creating awareness and building community. These included the presentation of To Eat an Almond, the organization of StFX Refugee Awareness Day, X Talks: Hope and Education and the President’s Colloquium: People in Crisis. What can we do. The work of SAFE and the issues it highlights have been brought into the classroom and into students’ academic, social and personal learning. Presentations have provided unique opportunities for students to learn more about refugee issues. Students involved in fundraising, advocacy and peer education have learned leaderships skills while mobilizing the student body to achieve a goal. Several research studies have come out of SAFE’s work as a sponsorship group and the arrival of refugees in the community. The work SAFE has done on campus, co-sponsoring events such as the Peace for Syria Walk and the Affirmation of Peace/Salam has helped StFX create a more diverse and inclusive campus where students have opportunity to learn from those who have a different religion and life experience.

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