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Convocation inspires next generation of artists, designers and makers

A group of students sit in an auditorium wearing black gowns and Convocation regalia.

On June 17, OCAD University celebrated 750 students from three faculties and Graduate Studies who received their diplomas in person at Roy Thomson Hall. Over 1600 friends and family members attended the day's morning and afternoon ceremonies.
The festivities. which were livestreamed to 45 countries across the globe to over 1800 online viewers, began with a welcome from Visiting Elder, Elizabeth (Liz) Osawamick who is an Anishinaabe Midewiwin-kwe community leader, Water Walker, activist and jingle dress dancer. 

Next, Vice-President, Academic and Provost Dr. Caroline Langill addressed the audience composed of graduates and members of their families, noting, “If there is one thing that I hope you have learned at OCAD University, especially over the past two years, is that the world needs your creativity and your imagination.” 

The ceremony recognized OCAD University’s 2022 Medal Winners, Students from 23 of the University’s undergraduate and graduate programs were honoured for their creativity, innovation and technical mastery in their chosen discipline.   

The Governor General’s Academic Medals were also presented to two exceptional students, Rachael Grad and Christine Woolley who achieved the highest academic standing in undergraduate and graduate studies, respectively. 

Addressing the Class of 2022 Grad, a Drawing and Painting graduate noted, “Whether your plans are to start a full-time career, enter graduate school or travel the world, I can’t wait to see what you do next. I hope you keep up your creative practice in your preferred form."  

At the lively event OCAD University awarded honorary doctorates to five outstanding and deserving individuals. 

The morning ceremony featured the awarding of the Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa to Annie Koyama, who was introduced by Lauchlan Reid, Chair of the Illustration Program in the Faculty of Design. Koyama is a publisher and owner of Koyama Press, a uniquely artist-centered publishing company. She has made an immeasurable mark on multiple generations of illustrators, artists, graphic novelists and the Canadian comics industry and has recently founded the philanthropic venture, Koyama Provides. 

From behind the podium Koyama remarked, “These past two years have shown us that in hard times, people turn to the arts to find comfort and solace. I wish for a more equitable world where artists are properly compensated for their work and where affordable housing is not just a concept.” 

City builder, civic leader and Order of Canada member Judy Matthews, received the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa also during the morning activities. Matthews, whose great-grandfather was E.J. Lennox, the architect of West Wing of the Ontario Legislative Building, The Omni King Edward Hotel, Old City Hall, and Casa Loma was introduced by Dr. Dori Tunstall, Dean of the Faculty of Design  

Dr. Tunstall described Matthews as an “urban angel” who has been an advocate for public space in Toronto since the 1960s. In 2017, Matthews philanthropic organization, the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation donated twenty-five million dollars to the Bentway, the visionary project that transformed land beneath the city’s Gardiner Expressway into a vibrant art hub. Matthews impacts on urban life can be felt throughout Toronto.

In the afternoon, three additional honorary doctorates were presented included distinguished Métis photographer Rosalie Favell whose career has spanned 40 years and has opened doors for generations of Indigenous artists. Favell received the Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa. 

“As you embark on your journey always work towards finding who you are. I encourage you to be true to yourself. You will learn more about yourself and others when you immerse yourself in your community. Speak from your own unique place in the world,” Favell, whose work will be the subject of a solo exhibition at OCAD U’s Onsite Gallery, curated by Ryan Rice, expressed to the ceremony attendees. 

Media art visionary and robotics innovator Norman Triplett White was awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, which was presented by Dr. Langill. White has been instrumental in media art education since joining OCAD University in 1978 and is credited as one of the first artists to use computer networking as an artistic medium. 

A media art historian herself, Dr. Langill noted that throughout his career as an educator White has, “demystified science and technology for students through real-life examples that made electronics accessible to those who might otherwise have been intimidated by its complexity." 

“With a focus on obsolete technologies that were destined for landfills, students learned sustainable techniques for production, countering assumptions that newer is better,” she continued. White was integral to the founding of the Integrated Media program at OCAD U, which continues to thrive today. 

Finally, Oscar-nominated filmmaker and producer and studio head for 25 years at the National Film Board of Canada, Michael Fukushima was awarded the Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa. 

Fukushima was recognized for his immense impact on the landscape of Canadian cinema and for his work in diversifying the field of animation. His honorary degree was presented by Veronika Szkudlarek, Interim Co-Chair of the Experimental Animation Program in the Faculty of Art.  

After producing over 200 animated films throughout his career, Fukushima offered five suggestions for the graduates embarking on the next step in their creative careers. He advised, “Be prepared, Try. Make, Build your community and Be Kind, Be Human.”  

Congratulations to the graduates, honorees and medal winners recognized at this year’s Convocation festivities.