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Convocation celebrates largest graduating class in recent history

Convocation celebrates largest graduating class in recent history

Roy Thomson Hall was alive with energy and excitement as over 1,000 OCAD University graduands from the Class of 2024 crossed the stage on June 14 during Convocation.

“To all of you, I applaud your achievements, your resilience, your perseverance in completing your degrees during exceptionally challenging times,” said Dr. Caroline Langill, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, in welcoming graduands and their families. “Despite adversity, your strength has shone through.”

This is the largest graduating class in recent OCAD U history, with a total of 1,086 graduands from the fall, winter and spring terms.

Two ceremonies took place during the day, beginning with morning ceremony at 10:30 a.m. for the Faculty of Design, followed by the afternoon ceremony at 3:30 p.m. for the Faculty of Art, Faculty of Arts and Science and School of Graduate Studies.


The festivities began with a welcome from Amos Key Jr., Mohawk Educator and Faith Keeper, Six Nations of Grand River Territory, and Councillor for the 59th Six Nations Elected Council. Key Jr. delivered a thanksgiving address, and the ceremony began with a drum song in honour of the graduating class from the Eagleheart Singers. 

To mark their graduation, Indigenous students received a gift of a stole made by Tammy Beauvais, a Mohawk fashion designer from Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec. The black stoles are embroidered with the OCAD U and Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) logos. Students were also given graduation gifts at the Indigenous Graduate Reception at Roy Thomson Hall.

In her address to graduands, OCAD U President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano celebrated that the Class of 2024 is also her first graduating cohort as President.

“Convocation is a truly memorable occasion, a once in a lifetime experience,” said President Serrano. “But this is a special Convocation for me as well. Like many of you, I began my tenure as President and Vice-Chancellor four years ago. For most of you, we have been together for four years. You are my first cohort as President of OCAD University. It’s a real pleasure to be here with you today.

“I know your time at OCAD U created friendships and connections that will support you through the next stage of your life,” she continued. “A heartfelt thanks to your parents, friends and families, who provided you with love, encouragement and support as you pursued your studies.”

Chancellor Jaime Watt was unable to attend this year’s Convocation ceremonies and sent his sincerest regrets; however, graduands were told he was watching the ceremonies via livestream. President Serrano read his address to the Class of 2024.

“What role can beauty and creativity play in this same world?” she posed to the rapt audience on his behalf. “In this moment of challenge? That’s a hard question. That’s one that cannot be wished away or ignored. That persists despite all the warnings from the past, despite all the cries for change in the present. But here’s the thing. It’s not my job to answer that question. That’s your job. It is an unfair, daunting, ever-present task. And it will require every millimetre of your courage, guts and resolve to answer.”

“Inspire those around you to share in your vision, to find hope in your sight,” continued President Serrano on Chancellor Watt’s behalf. “At this moment of necessity, I believe, I know, that you can and will answer with authenticity, determination and love.”

During the morning ceremony, Toronto Poet Laureate and OCAD U Professor Lillian Allen gave a spoken word performance of her poem “Never Lose Your Magic”, which inspired the audience to think about self-respect and learning as forms of magic. The poem also encouraged standing up for the rights of others.

During the afternoon ceremony, Allen was joined by three students who read her poem in their mother tongues: Mehnaz Lamia read in Bangla, Mina Vekaria read in Gujarati and Khushi Jetley read in Hindi. Then, Allen read the poem in English.

“Our creativity makes us visionaries,” said Allen, in performing her poem. “But self-respect is our biggest asset. It’s our magic. Learning, too, is magic - the mind through time expanding. Education is your superpower.”

“We will stand up for the rights of others,” she continued. “Especially for those who cannot speak. For we are one humanity. For we are one humanity. And we will not lose our magic.”

The ceremonies also recognized OCAD U’s 2024 Medal Winners. Students from the University’s undergraduate and graduate programs were honoured for their remarkable creativity, innovation and technical mastery in their chosen discipline.

The Governor General’s Academic Medals were presented to two exceptional students, Stephen Angelo Della Casa and Dr. Adam Wilton, who achieved the highest academic standing in undergraduate and graduate studies, respectively.

Silver medal recipient Della Casa, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in Photography, in accepting his medal on stage told the audience: “This symbolizes not just an academic journey, but a dedication to the arts.

“As a mature student, commuting two and a half hours a day to classes was a bit of a challenge, yet the effort and the journey were profoundly rewarding,” he continued. “Anything is possible no matter where you are or what you do – it’s never too late to pursue your passion. As we embark on our individual journeys, let us continue to inspire and support one another while striving for development.”

Gold medal recipient Dr. Wilton, who graduated with a Master of Design in Inclusive Design, was unable to attend in person but did so through a short video. He talked about starting the Inclusive Design program during a challenging time. He went on to express the importance of continuing work in the field of accessibility.

“One critical lesson I learned through my studies in inclusive design is to always broaden the tent instead of look for finish lines,” he said.

Ending his remarks with advice, he told the Class of 2024 “to not wait to share your gifts – true, we come to post-secondary education to learn and to grow but we also bring our own unique knowledge, skills and experience to this process.”


Top left to right: Siamak Hariri; Michael Massie, CM, RCA. Bottom left to right: George Bures Miller; Janet Cardiff; Andrew Pringle, CM.

OCAD U also awarded honorary doctorates to five remarkable individuals who have been leaders of change, having made a direct impact on arts and culture in Canada and worldwide.

The morning ceremony featured the awarding of honorary doctorates to Siamak Hariri and Michael Massie, CM, RCA.

Hairiri, who received a Doctor of Design, Honoris Causa, is founding partner of Hariri Pontarini Architects, a 150-person practice in Toronto that entered its fourth decade in 2024. His portfolio comprises cultural, academic, health care, spiritual and residential projects throughout Canada and abroad.

He spoke about choosing your partner and the people in your lives carefully to be successful, and recounted a story from his time at the Architecture School at Yale University, where he saw a security guard run his hand across the concrete at the Yale Art Gallery, designed by the great Louis Khan.

He didn’t need a degree in architecture to appreciate the detail and I loved that the building somehow created an emotional connection, a lift, which set me on a path I’m still on today, learning how architecture can affect us in a deep way,” said Hariri, addressing the audience. “I consider that encounter a gift.”

Hariri then expressed repaying that gift by sharing his story with three thoughts: to embrace beauty, strive for perfection and do good work in service of others.

A Newfoundland-based multi-media artist, Massie received a Doctor of Design, Honoris Causa. He channels his diverse Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage into his creations, and in 2017, he was appointed to the Order of Canada, honouring his significant contributions to Canadian art.

Massie delved into his timeline as an artist in his remarks and advised the Class of 2024: “Over the years I’ve learned many things, don’t worry if someone doesn’t like your work, there is always someone out there who does and is interested. Try different things, that way you’ll see which best suits you. Make mistakes, that’s the best way to learn. Be honest to yourself and to your work, because your works are you.”

Life is about taking chances,” he said. “Take the chance to see where you end up.”

During the afternoon ceremony, the University presented honorary doctorates to Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, and Andrew Pringle, CM.

Cardiff and Bures Miller, who received a Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, are known for their immersive multimedia sound installations and their audio/video walks.

Cardiff spoke about the importance of small choices in paving pathways in life.

Jorge Louis Borges, one of my favourite writers, wrote a short story called The Garden of Forking Paths, a story that could be read as a metaphor for the labyrinth of choices we have every moment in our lives,” she said. “This idea of unlimited forking paths and multi-worlds has always intrigued me. It has also pushed us over the years to try to accept even small seemingly unimportant exhibitions because you never know what can happen.”

One last bit of advice would be to see life as a playground of ideas out there to have fun with, and that you just have to be aware enough, awake enough and curious enough to take advantage of its magic,” she finished.

For Bures Miller, receiving an honorary doctorate degree from OCAD U and attending Convocation this year was very special to him, in that he never attended his own Convocation in 1986 from the Ontario College of Art (OCA) before it became OCAD U, and only wished his mother had been there to bear witness.

He offered some of the following “cliches” as advice: “Try to listen to your inner voice, it can give you the best advice of all. Try to think and speak positively and good things are more likely to happen.”

“An old instructor of mine used to say that we art students would create the future. He felt that a fine arts degree was the best thing you could get to prepare yourself for it as well. Good luck on your journey and thanks again for this honour,” he concluded.

A 2016 Order of Canada recipient, Pringle received a Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa. Pringle worked in the investment business at RBC Capital Markets from 1972 to 2002, where he retired as Managing Director, Head of Global Fixed Income to devote time to philanthropy. He currently chairs the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR).

“You are at the start of your great, next journey where, if you so choose, you can both do well and do good. If you choose that plan, then look for role models and mentors, people whose contributions you feel are exceptional and worth emulating,” said Pringle. “Determine to make a difference in whatever endeavour you take on whether it’s in the arts, community, the environment, politics, education. Choose your passion and pursue your dream of making a positive difference.”