St. Francis Xavier University has named Kerry Prosper, a respected Mi’kmaw elder, published author and Band Council member from Paqtnkek First Nation as its inaugural Knowledge Keeper on campus. The announcement was made Monday, October 1, at an event on the StFX campus to commemorate Treaty Day in Nova Scotia.
Terena Francis, Co-ordinator for Aboriginal Student Affairs at StFX’s Diversity Engagement Centre made the announcement on behalf of the university, noting Mr. Prosper’s long-standing work as a community leader.
She also presented him with an eagle feather, a tremendous sign of respect and appreciation.
“Eagle feathers represent honour in Mi’kmaq culture,” explained Terena. “They symbolize wisdom, honour, strength and trust, and to me, that’s Kerry. He has lived his life by the ways of Mi’kmaq natural law.
“We are grateful to have him at StFX!”
In his role as Knowledge Keeper, Mr. Prosper will work with interested students, staff and faculty, offering wisdom and teaching about traditional Indigenous ways of being and knowing. He will maintain office hours on campus throughout the year and lead program opportunities like Learning Lodges, which will be offered on campus once a month, featuring Indigenous-centric content that’s driven by students themselves.
Members of StFX’s Joint Advisory Council consulted with groups like the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Mi’kmaw Kinamatnewey, Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, and Pictou Landing Mi’kmaw Nation on the creation of the Knowledge Keeper position.
“WHAT DOES TREATY MEAN TO ME?”
Mr. Prosper was one of three featured speakers at the Treaty Day event, which saw a standing-room only crowd fill StFX’s Immaculata Auditorium. Contemporary Treaty Day was first acclaimed by Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. in 1986 after the Supreme Court of Canada Simon Decision in 1985, which affirmed the Treaty of 1752. Treaty Day promotes public awareness and education of treaty rights and obligations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
StFX students Cheyla Rogers and Justice Gruben began the evening with an acknowledgement that the event – and StFX itself – is housed on the traditional ancestral territory of Mi’kma’ki. The territory is unceded by the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) peoples, and is covered by the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1725.
Cheyla noted that, despite strides made towards Indigenous/settler reconciliation, First Nations’ youth still face serious systemic disadvantages. For instance, they are 7 times more likely to die by suicide and 6 times more likely to be a victim of homicide than their non-Indigenous peers.
Justice - who also offered Mi'kmaw and Wolastoqiyik honour songs - spoke about the importance of ongoing reconciliation work.
“Reconciliation is about taking responsibility and moving forward,” he said. “It needs to be about more than just flags and territorial acknowledgements. To truly honour the treaties that were signed, it takes a whole other set of steps.”
Lindsay Marshall, poet and former chief of Potlotek Mi’kmaw Nation, was another of the evening’s featured presenters. He spoke about the need to understand treaties not just as documents signed by our ancestors, but as living, breathing agreements that guide our lives and actions today.
“A treaty is alive,” said Mr. Marshall. “Treaty education is so important to everyone, because we all need to understand there isn’t just one treaty beneficiary. Both sides benefit. All of us.”
He also noted his optimism that the youth and young adults of today will enact the changes required to move closer to full reconciliation.
“Young people will be the engine for this change. And I think we have the means and the desire to create the change right here in this room.”
Cheryl Maloney, a prominent voice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and long-time advocate for Mi’kmaq rights to natural resource protection, also spoke. She shared stories from her life of activism, including how she used her legal background and knowledge of Canadian constitutional law to delay the controversial Alton Gas project near Stewiacke, Nova Scotia.
She also challenged attendees to do their part to uphold treaty rights.
“These are my stories, but they talk about your responsibilities,” she said. “Honour and protect the treaty. They are your survival.”
The event also included presentations and remarks from StFX students William McReady, Keeley MacCuish, Mariette Pique, Chelsey MacPherson, Monica Ragan, April Prosper, Ellen Byrne, Broderick Jackisch, and Katelynn MacPhee. All students are enrolled in Anthropology 332 Mi’kmaw Studies: Advanced Critical Issues in Indigenous Anthropology, taught by Dr. L. Jane McMillan, Associate Professor and Chair of StFX’s Anthropology Department.
John Peacock, a distinguished Canadian corporate and philanthropic leader and a StFX alumnus from the Class of 1963, has officially become the university’s 10th Chancellor.
Mr. Peacock was installed as Chancellor during a ceremony held in the StFX Chapel on Sept. 30, 2018, the final day of Homecoming Weekend 2018.
“I am delighted to have this opportunity to serve as StFX’s 10th Chancellor. It is both an honour and a privilege and I would like to thank the Board of Governors for giving me this opportunity,” said Mr. Peacock, who noted his affiliation with StFX started 58 years ago this month when he arrived on campus after graduating from St. Patrick’s High School in Quebec City. He has since gone on to an inspired career, with over 40 years accounting and senior business leadership experience. He is the retired executive vice-president of Fednav Limited, a Canadian ocean-going, dry-bulk ship-owning and chartering group.
“The role of Chancellor is an ambassadorial and ceremonial one, advancing StFX’s interests provincially, nationally and internationally, serving as an advocate for the university’s history, mission and vision. The Chancellor is a distinguished person with a record of demonstrated excellence in his/her chosen field and in community service; an individual whose reputation and experience exemplifies StFX values. It is a role made for Mr. Peacock. He is a StFX champion through and through,” said Board of Governors Chair Mike Boyd, who introduced Mr. Peacock and delivered the Oath of Office.
StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald officiated over the investiture, investing Mr. Peacock with the robes of office.
A well-respected leader, Mr. Peacock continues to serve on Fednav’s board of directors. He also serves on the board of Teekay Offshore Partners, and although retired from numerous community boards, he remains active in pursuing the philanthropic interests of The Peacock Family Foundation.
He and his wife Adrienne, also a 1963 StFX graduate, have long supported their alma mater. Mr. Peacock served on the Coady International Institute Advisory Board and Mrs. Peacock on the StFX Board of Governors. They are Coady International Institute Honorary Patrons, and together, they established the Dr. John T. Sears Chair in Corporate Responsibility at StFX to recognize Mr. Peacock’s former professor who greatly impacted his academic experience while a student.
SET FINE EXAMPLE
In his installation address, Mr. Peacock thanked and acknowledged his predecessor, Dr. Susan Crocker, StFX’s ninth Chancellor, and the first woman and the first lay person to fulfill this role. “Susan, you have set a fine example of excellence. I will do my best to do the same.”
Mr. Peacock says he very much enjoyed his years at StFX. “I believe I matured in many ways, received a good education, met a lovely girl from the Mount who is with me here today, graduated in 1963, and headed for the big city of Montreal to pursue my studies to become a chartered accountant.
“Over the intervening 55 years, I have watched StFX grow and prosper.”
StFX, he says, has changed in many ways in that time—more students, expanded curriculum, improved physical facilities and enhanced reputation—but the essence of the university has not changed.
“I think this point is well made by Dr. MacDonald when he recently stated: ‘StFX is a small university by design. While our students’ minds are broadened by informative learning, they are also shaped by the strong sense of community that’s only possible at a small, primarily residential university.’”
Mr. Peacock noted the primary responsibility of the Chancellor is to serve as Chair of Convocation and confer all degrees of the university. In addition, the Chancellor is expected to represent the university to the external community and, in this role, is an advocate for the vision of the university as endorsed by the Board of Governors.
Mr. Peacock said that while reflecting on the state of the world today can be daunting with concerning issues such as climate change, the rise of authoritarian rulers and the consequent threats to democratic institutions, and the enormous disparities in living conditions and concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, there is also hope.
AGENT FOR CHANGE
“Our hope for change is right here in Antigonish. Our university is an agent for change. Our students are this engaged and aware generation. And it is their courage to confront the injustices and challenges of the world today which should give us confidence that optimism is justified, and they can, and will, make the world a better place.
“I very much look forward to the opportunity of being a witness to the efforts of our students, to hopefully interact with them from time to time, and to shake their hands and greet them as they receive their degrees from this wonderful institution, which I had the honour of graduating from 55 years ago.”
Mr. Peacock says he very much looks forward to working with all to achieve StFX’s motto, “Whatsoever things are true.”
Congratulations and greetings during the ceremony came from across the country, including from Central Nova MP Sean Fraser on behalf of the Government of Canada, and the Hon. Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness, Minister of Gaelic Affairs and MLA for Antigonish, on behalf of the province.
Also bringing greetings were Chief Paul Propser, Mi’kmaw First Nation, Paq’tnkek; Rev. Dr. John Barry, Chair, Council of Priests, Diocese of Antigonish; Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher; Antigonish County Warden Owen McCarron; Dr. Adela Sandness, Chair of the StFX University Senate on behalf of faculty; Barry Purcell of Facilities Management on behalf of StFX staff; StFX Alumni Association President Glenn Horne; and StFX Students’ Union President Rebecca Mesay.
Vicar of the Founder and Bishop of Antigonish, the Most. Rev. Brian Dunn, delivered the benediction, and University Chaplain Gary MacPherson delivered the invocation.
StFX anthropology professor Dr. L. Jane McMillan served as Master of Ceremonies.
Board of Governors student representative Emma Crilly read a passage from the university’s motto from the Philippians 4:4-9, Whatsoever things are true.
A reception followed the ceremony in Dennis Hall.
Dr. Mathias Nilges, a StFX English professor, has been named the Director of StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, a centre devoted to developing student, faculty and community leadership.
As director, Dr. Nilges, a seasoned member of StFX faculty with a strong record of accomplishment, is responsible for the academic programs and the management and operations of the McKenna Centre, which provides students with opportunities to link theory with practice, and to focus on local, national, and international leadership applications.
He will work with groups across campus including the Coady International Institute and the Mulroney Institute of Government to maximize resources and develop events and programs that distinguishes StFX. He will also provide leadership to develop academic programming, and actively engage and energize students and members of the campus community.
Dr. Nilges says he is looking forward to the role.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the McKenna Centre to me is that it makes it possible to foster and to produce courageous, innovative projects by students and faculty at StFX, projects that make important contributions to contemporary academic, sociocultural, and political debates,” he says.
“The McKenna Centre is a very special resource for us at StFX insofar as it is able to support and amplify big, new ideas on our campus. I hope that we can make it our ‘blue sky thinking division’ that serves all students and faculty on our campus, and I look forward to developing a rigorous academic focus at the centre.
“We will work to bring together students and faculty across fields and disciplines through new initiatives and new opportunities for collaboration in an attempt to foster the creation of courageous new thought and ideas and to creatively address some of the most pressing problems of our time.”
Dr. Nilges has been an English professor at StFX since 2008. He holds a PhD in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was the winner of the 2009 University of Illinois at Chicago Outstanding Dissertation Award.
He has been appointed an Obama Fellow, Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, May/June, 2019, and is currently a Jules Léger Scholar in the Humanities and Social Sciences at StFX.
Dr. Nilges is a frequently invited keynote speaker, including recently delivering a prestigious series of lectures and workshops at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee as the university’s Rheney Lecturer. He was also the driving force behind the recently launched The Examined Life Lab, a student-led online lab at StFX that offers research opportunities to students in the humanities and that fosters the development of important current skills through analyses and critiques of daily life designed to better understand the pressing problems of our time.
He is the author of three monographs, including one in preparation, as well as numerous edited collections, edited journal volumes, articles, book chapters, reviews, and translations.
For the past decade, he has been actively involved in the StFX community in a variety of roles from serving as the Chair, Faculty of Arts to an Immersion Serving Learning faculty leader.
The doors into the world of a person living in poverty in Nova Scotia opened wide for nearly 120 fourth year Rankin School of Nursing students on Sept. 27 as senior Community Health nursing students stepped into Mount St. Bernard’s Chapel classroom and into the persona of someone living on the edge.
The Rankin School of Nursing teamed with the United Way Halifax to offer the simulation experience called Living on the Edge as a required course in the curriculum that finishes this year.
The intent is to help student participants and future nurses see the world from a different perspective that haven’t experienced poverty before, says Rankin School Assistant Director Dr. Debbie Sheppard-LeMoine.
“They will spend an hour experiencing one month living on the edge of poverty in a simulated environment through role playing, where each student takes on an assigned role a family member or a community service provider,” Dr. Sheppard-LeMoine says.
“Most of the participants will be assigned a role in a scenario as part of a family unit or as a single person and they are given the task to get through the month using the resources they have.”
“It’s what it’s like to live on the brink of poverty,” says Daniel Blacquiere, donor engagement officer with the United Way Halifax, and one of the facilitators.
“It showcases the reality that people face.”
Mr. Blacquiere says the experience is designed to build empathy and understanding of what it’s like to live in poverty in Nova Scotia, and also to work towards helping close that gap.
Poverty, he says, can affect anyone. Sometimes it is easy to recognize, sometimes not. Many people, he says, are living one paycheque, one circumstance, away from financial crisis. It’s something that can happen to anyone.
“It’s a really good learning experience,” says Dr. Sheppard-LeMoine. “It’s a creative way to make it real.”
Mr. Blacquiere says the United of Way Halifax has been offering the simulation experience, which started in Missouri, to businesses and universities for the last three years. All the data has been updated to reflect Nova Scotia, he says.
“It’s designed to be a little uncomfortable, a little stressed. The debrief, that’s when we see the aha moment. It’s really powerful.”
Offering the experience to nursing students is such a perfect fit, he says. In their careers, nurses will often deal with people who face these issues.
“A stroke of bad luck could put anyone over the edge,” says facilitator Lisa Buchanan, United Way Halifax development research officer.
“Imagine yourself in the shoes of the folks who may experience this.”
Close to 1,000 StFX alumni and friends are expected back on campus this weekend for Homecoming 2018.
Alumni are coming back to alma mater from all over the world, including from South Africa, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the United States. Alumni are also coming from a broad range of class years, including members of the Class of 1948, celebrating their 70th reunion.
The Welcome Home Dinner, one of the weekend’s highlight events, on Friday, September 28 will honour some of StFX’s shining stars with the presentation of the Alumni Awards of Excellence. Andrew Howlett ’02 will receive the Young Alumnus of the Year Award; Anne Campbell will receive the Friend of StFX award; and Gerry McConnell ’67 will be presented with the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award. The Chapter of Year Award will be awarded to the Edmonton Chapter.
The StFX Hall of Honour, held Saturday, September 29 at 11 a.m. in the Schwartz Auditorium, recognizes members of the StFX community who have carried on the StFX tradition of helping others. The Hall of Honour serves as an inspiration to current students and ensures the StFX tradition continues. The 2018 inductees are Allene MacPherson Goforth ’65, Joseph McGann ’68, and Morag Graham ’68.
Bios of the Alumni Awards of Excellence recipients and the Hall of Honour inductees follow.
Alumni Awards of Excellence
Distinguished Alumnus - Gerry McConnell ’67
Gerry McConnell has brought honour to StFX and the Nova Scotia community through leadership and service. After graduating from StFX in 1967, Gerry entered Dalhousie Law School. He was called to the bar in 1971 and was an associate and partner at Patterson & Palmer law firm from 1971-87. He received the Queen’s Counsel designation in 1986. In the 1980s and ’90s, his career evolved when he became involved in mining exploration in north eastern Africa, and then in the late 90s his entrepreneurial spirit led him to create the acclaimed winery Benjamin Bridge. During his time in Africa, he was struck by the beauty of the people and land but was affected by the extreme poverty. With friends, he set out on a social justice journey, investing in social programs to improve schools, infrastructure and medical programs in five countries. In 2004, Gerry was the recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Republic of Niger. Gerry has been a strong StFX supporter. He is the Class of 1967 lifetime president and a major contributor to the 1967 class gift at his 50th reunion. He was inducted into the StFX Hall of Fame as a member of the 1965-66 hockey team and is a lifetime member of the President’s Club. He’s been a key supporter of the Women of X-Cellence Fund and offers his support to alumni events with much commitment.
Chapter of the Year - Edmonton Chapter
The StFX Alumni Association Edmonton Chapter is a dynamic, involved, and welcoming group who seek to engage all alumni, of all ages and interests. The chapter annually hosts a number of alumni events and helps StFX with recruiting efforts and bursary development. Among their community engagement activities, the chapter hosts a StFX Day dinner and celebration, an annual new student send-off and alumni bbq, an Alberta beef and East Coast lobster dinner night, a night at the races, three or four pub nights a year, and they host a president’s reception. The chapter has also volunteered at a local soup kitchen and supports several local charities with donations at their events. They also actively seek to aid in recruiting new students to StFX, help to arrange school visits in the area, and are in the final stages of establishing a $500 bursary for students from the Edmonton area to attend StFX. The Edmonton chapter has been in existence since 1970 and has a long legacy of bringing StFX graduates and their families and friends together in fellowship.
Friend of StFX - Anne Campbell
Anne Campbell’s long association with StFX began in her hometown of Antigonish, NS, then continued with her late husband Michael A. “Diker” Campbell, a graduate of the StFX Classes of 1958 and 1959. Anne and Diker were a StFX team of their own, promoting and honouring the spirit of StFX in their home community of Halifax. As tireless volunteers, they were involved in the annual Father Kehoe Dinner in Halifax as well as alumni events near and far. Their love of StFX was evident in their commitment to alma mater. Anne has continued to serve as an advocate of StFX alumni in Halifax, spreading the word about alumni gatherings and ensuring people come out to attend. Her enthusiasm is an inspiration and contributes to the success of Halifax chapter events. She believes in the importance of giving back and established the Michael A. Campbell Scholarship to provide an annual award to a Citadel High School student in Halifax to attend StFX.
Young Alumnus - Andrew Howlett ’02
Andrew Howlett embodies the spirit of StFX. He has done this from his days as MacNeil House president to fulfilling the role of StFX national Alumni Association president. He tirelessly promotes StFX, including serving as the Toronto chapter alumni president to delivering an inspiring speech to hundreds of students on the Feast Day of StFX during the iconic X-Ring Ceremony. After graduating from StFX, Andrew completed his medical doctorate at Dalhousie University, and a residency in psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is a psychiatrist in the Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Program at St. Joseph’s Health Centre where he also works as an educator, administrator and researcher. He is the co-founder of the Fathers’ Mental Health Network, and the creator of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Project, a campaign to engage men in talking about their health. He is the first to provide a Fathers’ Mental Health Consultation and Treatment Program in Canada. Despite a busy family and professional life, he has steadfastly remained committed to StFX. This focused, driven, and energetic man has always found a way to put his family, friends and community needs ahead of his own.
Hall of Honour Inductees
Allene MacPherson Goforth ’65
Allene MacPherson Goforth is recognized for her trailblazing achievements, including becoming what is believed to be the first deaf woman in Canada to graduate from university. The Sydney, NS native contracted tuberculosis meningitis at age seven. As a result of medical treatment for it, she became deaf, and later had to leave her siblings and parents to attend the Halifax School for the Deaf for about three years. A bright and eager student, she returned to her home area to complete her schooling, eventually graduating from Holy Angels High School. She was awarded a scholarship to pursue university studies and attended StFX where she thoroughly engaged in and enjoyed student life. She graduated in 1965 with a BSc in home economics, and subsequently obtained certification as a dietician from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, all the while overcoming new challenges and convincing sceptics of her ability in a hearing world. In 1978, she changed careers and returned to studies, graduating with a BA in liberal arts and sciences from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and then with her master’s in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her working career was mainly spent as a librarian. Although deaf, she never allowed the hearing disability to hold her back. She is described as a person with insight and strength, always positive, always engaged. Her talents, scholarship and achievement, as well as her contributions to her community, embody the StFX motto, a life of thought and service.
Joseph McGann ’68
Joe McGann is a person focused on making a difference in the lives of others. He graduated from StFX in 1968. His time at StFX exposed him to a social consciousness framework that he has embraced. His life’s journey has been characterized by service to others, driven by a deep respect for individuals and a conviction that each of us should share our blessings. A key moment of service in his work life occurred as part of the U.S. Government Crises Management Team supporting the Pentagon and World Trade Centre recovery after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. In his personal life, his efforts have been centred on youth, the needy and homeless both locally and in Cuba, his church, and the StFX community. Within the Westford community he spent many years working with youth, coaching baseball and hockey. Beyond athletics, he focused on helping each child gain confidence and appreciation for fair play. For over 40 years, he has shared his time too in his Westford Parish of St. Catherine, teaching religious education and volunteering with the Knights of Columbus. Extending beyond his home community, he is also involved with two groups helping marginalized individuals in Cuba and in Lowell, Massachusetts. In the early 1970s and ’80s, he served as head of the StFX Boston alumni chapter, and was the New England representative for the capital campaign led by the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney. He also served two terms on the StFX Board of Governors. Joe McGann has truly embraced the spirit of StFX and the tradition of giving back to the community. His life is a positive legacy of impactful service.
Morag Graham ’68
Morag (MacDonald) Graham is an example of a life lived with integrity, strength and determination served by a keen intellect and desire to serve others. While a student at StFX, she was actively involved in organizations running the gamut from X-Project to the Debating Team. She was a member of the field hockey team and wrote a weekly column for the Xaverian Weekly. In her final year, she received the Marimar Trophy (today called the Carmel Loisier Award) as the outstanding senior female graduate. She has been a promoter of StFX all her life. She spent six years serving on the StFX Board of Governors and has also been actively involved in alumni chapter activities and has been a frequent presence at StFX Homecoming. Morag spent almost 40 years as an educator, taking on roles from classroom teacher to principal. Many students credit her with giving them the courage to aim high. She has been an exemplary community volunteer and has served on many boards from L’Arche Cape Breton to the Judique Community Centre, from the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre to Inverness County Small Options. She has worked tirelessly for the advancement and promotion of her local area and has dedicated herself to the enrichment of the lives of others in her community. In all capacities, she has shown leadership and dedication.