Convocation Chapel & Installation of Chancellor – Harriet Thornhill

It was suggested that I just grab some tissue, and I thought "I'm not going to need it." But obviously I do. I, feeling quite emotional this morning, still morning, for several reasons. But good after, good morning, everyone. And thank you, Dr. Kerr, Ross and Dale. And I'm feeling emotional, first of all, because when I reflected this morning, in my meditation time, and devotion time, I thought, How special is it that convocation chapel, and my installation, is during Holy Week? Like, that's a lot to process. And I'm so thankful.

I want to thank everyone for being here. It's a blessing to have my family, my friends, and my colleagues, and I will say sitting over there, and at Christmas in the chapel, I never thought I would be standing here. That's how things changed, and how you have to be open to change. But I want to thank my colleagues for joining today, and my friends and my family and so many community leaders. It's not lost on me the sacrifice that you have made today, a weekday, at this time to be here. And I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you, including those who have made the time to listen in and to watch through Livestream. Thank you so much.

A special acknowledgement to the students, staff and faculty. Thank you for your attendance and participation. I am looking forward to being a part of Tyndale with you. I am deeply honoured and humbled to be given this opportunity to serve as Chancellor of Tyndale University. I was introduced to this institution over six years ago, and was able to serve on the Board of Governors and several committees. I've remained connected, and considered myself a friend of Tyndale's because of the alignment to some of the areas I am passionate about, like education and continuous learning, faith, and the development of future leaders. The history of this institution embodies a legacy of faithful leadership, and generations of students who have been formed, and inspired to thrive and to be changemakers in whatever path they choose to.

Listening to Julie and Laura, oh my goodness, so inspirational. And they are just perfect examples, their reflections further reinforced to me the impact of the experience here at Tyndale. It's pretty compelling. And that's why today, I am pleased to follow in the footsteps of eight Chancellors, including being the second woman, and the first black chancellor of this university.

I believe, I believe that it demonstrates progress. And I also think it serves as another example of possibilities for the younger generation. I would also like to take a few minutes, if I may, to acknowledge the 2023 graduates. I am looking forward with excitement to convocation next month. So congratulations to each of you on this significant milestone. You have worked tirelessly, and as Dr. Kerr said, it has not been without adversity to achieve this important step in your journey. Wherever your next steps take you, I encourage you to go forward with a bold mindset of passion and purpose. When I think of a purpose driven mindset, I'm reminded of the story of three bricklayers. Christopher Wren was a famous architect, commissioned to rebuild St. Paul's Cathedral in London after the great fire in the 1960s. Five years into the massive project, he stopped for a moment and he posed a simple question to three bricklayers. What are you doing? He asked. The first replied, I am a bricklayer working hard to feed my family. The second said, I'm a builder. I'm building the walls of a church. The third answered, and I took this from the story, with a gleam in his eye and said I am a cathedral builder. I am building a great cathedral to the Almighty.

This story can be unpacked in so many ways, and we don't have time today to do that. So I thought I would encourage the graduates with four personal reflections.

Firstly, don't settle. Most times, finding one's passion and purpose is a journey, a mindset and experiences that moves from seeing the day-to-day, to seeing the bigger picture for your life. You know the expression "if at first you don't succeed, try again." Sometimes it might feel like you're not making progress, and might experience some bumps along the way. It's not a shame to fall down. But it is a shame to just stay down. Keep striving to be what you were called to be.

Secondly, surround yourself with those who can help you grow and thrive. People who encourage you to find your cathedral, people who will help and support you in pursuing and building your cathedral. That's why mentors and sponsors are so important. There's a phrase that I am familiar with in terms of having your own personal board of directors, and I'm glad that I have I have mine. But this weekend, I was attending a wonderful workshop. And there was a term that was used, having a personal board of mentors. So I may replace board of directors with mentors, and I'm encouraging you to do the same. It's really about having a core group of individuals you can trust, and who have demonstrated that they have your back. Be intentional about who you select to be in that core circle, or that core board of mentors. Some of mine are here today. And I thank them. I'm get emotional. I want to thank them, for being a source of inspiration for me, for challenging me when I needed to be challenged. And helping me to remember that anything that I do, it's actually not about me, it's about helping the next generation, it's about helping the next person if they can feel a sense of moving forward. That's really what it's all about. And sometimes, these mentors, and sponsors, come into our life for a season. They come in and out. That's okay. Others will stay for a lifetime. So choose wisely.

Lastly, and what I personally believe, underpins the pursuit of our passions, and our purpose, is a couple of my favorite Bible verses. Proverbs four, verse five to six. "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."

So congratulations again. Thank you and God bless everyone.

Convocation Chapel & Installation of Chancellor – Harriet Thornhill
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