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A few walked by with straightforward ‘thank you’ signs for mom, dad, grandparents and other family members. A few did fist pumps and other celebratory moves more associated with scoring a big goal or draining a key basket. A few did a couple of quick dance moves or waited for a classmate to catch up to do a celebratory hug. And a few simply put out their hand to show off their new X Ring.
The ‘few’ were StFX students walking by cameras capturing the StFX X Ring ceremony for all those who weren’t in the event’s location Keating Centre on the afternoon of Dec. 3.
After listing places he knew would be represented on the day, either by students or their families and friends traveling to Antigonish to join them, MacDonald talked about what makes StFX and the X Ring so special.
“Let me be clear, this spirit that captures even the parents and families, is simply not normal behaviour at any university in this country welcome to all of you to StFX,” he said.
He talked about asking students what the X Ring means to them and summarized some of the answers in his speech.
“Visual validation of your time here at StFX, a reward for your hard work, recognizes the ability to set goals and achieve them and it celebrates persistence, not only over a number of months but over a number of years,” he said. “And it’s a symbol of the shared experience that each of you has had while here at StFX three people even described today as a ‘dream come true.’
MacDonald then provided his own feelings on what X Ring symbolizes.
“Let me remind you of one item, this ring to some is simply a ring, to us, those who have walked this campus and shared this journey, I think it’s a symbol of three things; number one it represents academic excellence. A faculty who are world class scholars, teachers who go beyond the call of duty to ensure every student has an exemplary learning experience.
“It represents dedicated employees. A staff who wakes up every morning asking themselves how they might make the day a little bit brighter, a little bit better for students and make them feel a little bit more at home.
“And it represents our collective experiences the good that happens when you come to StFX. It reminds us StFX is more than just a school. It’s a place of purpose where people learn and earn the skills, knowledge and attributes that they need to make the world a better place.”
A poignant part of the ceremony was MacDonald talking about he and his wife, alumnus Mary Ellen MacPhee,
visiting Class of 2015 member Jesse Crowley and his family in Ottawa with Jesse unable to be part of the ceremony due to illness. It was noted Mary Ellen delivered Jesse his X Ring.
MacDonald was followed to the podium by president of the senior class Kate MacDonald who also emceed the event.
“We’ve all had different experiences at X. Whether as a parent who gets their kids to school on time so you can too [be on time]. Whether you begin your program here or finish it, or as an international student, this ring unites us all,” Kate MacDonald said.
“We’ve all had a personal path that has led us to this very moment. For myself, I know going to X was the best decision I ever made.”
Kate MacDonald was followed by senior class vice president Emily Pelley who read from the writings of Dr. Moses Coady and then it was student union vice president Alicia Silliker taking the podium to introduce the ceremony’s guest speaker Dr. Andrew Howlett, class of 2002 and president of the alumni association.
Howlett mixed humour and inspiration seamlessly into his speech.
“Here we are just minutes away from the birth of nearly a thousand X Rings and, as a new father, I know these last few minutes before the delivery can be rather unbearable,” he said eliciting laughter from his audience. “Soon enough the future of these X Rings will be in your hands literally.”
Howlett included social media references in his speech including describing X Rings as the original Facebook.
“Of course we all know this is more than just a ring,” he said. “For whatever reasons, Xaverians tend to feel naked when they forget to put it on who knew it could cover up so much.
“Combine the 72 year history and reputation of the X Ring, along with your own individual stories, and you have yourself a very special ring.”
He concluded by asking the students to “promise” him three things.
“First, when you see a stranger with an X Ring say ‘hello’ and ask them what’s inscribed inside their ring. Second, should someone try to borrow, take or express jealousy for your X Ring simply say to them ‘get your own X Ring.’ And thirdly, let your X Ring remind you of your Xaverian identity and the world we’re capable of creating.”
In her ‘response to the guest speaker’s address, Hilary Perry followed up on Howlett’s speech by noting the X Ring will remind graduates of “home.”
“Of how our experience at StFX helped to make us who we are today and how choosing to attend this institution was the best decision we ever made,” Perry said.
Also taking the stage during the ceremony were Michael Thomson with an ‘explanation of StFX motto,’ and student union president Brandon Hamilton to offer thoughts on ‘Xaverian commitment’ and to present an honourary X Ring to staff member, since 1993,
Francis Juurlink who was described a Mr. Everything for all the things he does around the school. The tasks include transporting the X Rings to the school for the ceremony.