Congratulations to a very special graduating class

June 09, 2020

On behalf of the entire Simon Fraser University community, I offer heartfelt congratulations to members of the class of 2020 who will be graduating this Thursday.

By completing your education in the midst of a global pandemic, you have demonstrated a remarkable determination and resilience. You are the first SFU graduates to have faced a challenge on this scale and you will be long remembered for your inspiring example.

And while you leave our university for an uncertain world, the knowledge and skills you have acquired at SFU will serve you well – not only in advancing your own futures, but also in helping communities to recover and rebuild. That is the gift of education: in empowering you to improve your own lives, education empowers you to improve the lives of others.  And now, more than ever, we need your skills, passions and talents to help build a better world.

SFU graduates can also derive strength from knowing that, wherever you go and whatever challenges you take on, this university and its network of over 160,000 alumni in more than 140 countries around the world will be there to support you.    

Although the celebration of the 2020 Spring Convocation will be virtual, the sense of pride that the university community takes in our graduates is very real, as I am sure is the pride felt by your family and friends.  Still, we hope that you accept our invitation to return to the Burnaby campus for a future in-person ceremony when it is safe to do so.

In addition to this week’s online celebration, SFU will also host a virtual Indigenous Honouring Ceremony on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, in recognition of the 143 Indigenous students who earned credentials in the 2019-20 academic year.

This week, we also celebrate eight extraordinary honorary degree recipients who will take part in the virtual convocation event. They are:  

Beth Allen (Doctor of Fine Arts, honouris causa):  A.K.A. Bif Naked, a gold and platinum-selling songwriter, author, human and animal rights advocate. She has released 11 albums, founded her own record label and is one of Canada’s most recognized and well-loved artists.

John Borrows (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa): A leading authority on Indigenous, constitutional and environmental law who helped establish the world’s first Indigenous law degree and whose scholarship is having a transformative impact on reconciliation efforts in Canada and around the world.

Randy Boyagoda (Doctor of Letters, honoris causa): Principal and vice-president of the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, an award-winning Canadian writer, critic and academic who has made substantial contributions to literature, cultural commentary and social critique.

Vincent Di Lollo (Doctor of Science, honoris causa): An internationally recognized leader among cognitive systems researchers and SFU adjunct professor whose research and publications on brain processes has improved humankind's understanding of perception and cognition.

Mariana Mazzucato (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa): An internationally celebrated economist and professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London, and advisor to policymakers around the world on innovation-led, inclusive and sustainable growth.

Sophie Pierre (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa): Long-time champion of Indigenous education and economic development, former chief commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission and accomplished and recognized Indigenous leader in Canada.

George P. Smith (Doctor of Science, honoris causa): Nobel laureate, professor and molecular biologist renowned for his invention of ‘phage display’ which led to the creation of new drugs to combat diseases like cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

Diane Sowden (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa): Champion in the struggle against the sexual exploitation of children and Founder of the Children of the Street Society, who has raised awareness and lobbied to change laws in Canada and in B.C. to ensure children are safer.

I invite all in the SFU community to join us on Thursday June 11 at 5:30 p.m. (PDT) for this vibrant virtual event, hosted by yours truly and SFU Chancellor Anne Giardini. You can find details about this and all convocation events on the convocation website.  

Congratulations to our newest SFU alumni and distinguished honorees. What you have accomplished gives us all hope for a better future.