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Former prime minister Kim Campbell receives honorary Acadia degree

WOLFVILLE - The latest group of arts and divinity graduates from Acadia University are moving forward with a few words of wisdom from a former prime minister.

Honorary Doctor of Civil Laws degree recipient Kim Campbell – the first, and only, woman to serve as Prime Minister of Canada ­– was the guest speaker at the Wolfville-based university’s 3 p.m. convocation May 13.

“Two bits of advice: one is, there is an elixir of life - it’s called exercise,” said Campbell, to laughs.

“The other one is that there is a secret to happiness – kind deeds.”

Campbell has a law degree and experience serving at all three levels of government. She’s held the position of Minister of State for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs.

She became the first woman elected as Prime Minister of Canada in June 1993, and went on to head several global organizations following her time in office. She challenged the new Acadia grads to use their educational background to search for truth in a digital age fraught with falsehoods.

“From my perspective, you are at the heart of why I have hope that we will deal with the challenges facing us,” she said.

“This is all part of a search for the truth and a respect for the truth, and an understanding of what it means to our lives,” she later added.

She said the wisdom and understanding gained in the pursuit of a liberal arts degree will prove useful in many facets of life, particularly in a world where the generations of tomorrow will be tasked with ensuring the latest technological breakthroughs are properly regulated.

She listed allegations of cyber activity interfering with voting results in other parts of the world as one example of how technology can undermine the democratic process.

“We are living in difficult times,” she said.

Campbell told the graduates to stand for integrity and truth as they use their understanding of how to analyze information as critical thinkers to chart the course for future generations.

“We’re counting on you.”

Dr. Peter Ricketts, president and vice-chancellor of Acadia University, had similar sentiments to convey to the Class of 2018.

“Use your unique Acadia educational experience to help you navigate through the information so that you can detect truth from falsehood, good information from bad – so that you can see through, and around, the noise to determine the right path forward,” he said.

He stressed the importance of lifelong learning through education, interactions, experiences and communication, challenging the graduates to set their sights on reaching their full potential.

“As I look out today and see you gathered here, I can only feel confident that the future is in good hands – your hands,” he concluded.

Reverend Dr. David Watt received the title of Doctor of Divinity as Campbell’s fellow honorary degree recipient at the convocation ceremony.

Watt has earned four degrees from Acadia University, and was inducted into the Acadia Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 in recognition of his days spent serving as the assistant captain for the Axemen.

Conferring the degrees, and granting the graduates the rights and privileges pertaining to said degrees, was Acadia’s outgoing chancellor, Dr. Libby Burnham. Burnham has greeted thousands of graduates crossing the stage at past convocations with a hard-earned handshake and soft smile since stepping into the role in 2011.

Addressing the crowd in convocation hall, Burnham listed engaging with students as the highlight of her time as chancellor. She hailed Campbell as a transformative leader and inspiration for women. 

“It is a very, very personal honour to me to have had the opportunity to confer this degree,” said Burnham, a member of Acadia’s graduating class of 1960.

Burnham, the successor to Dr. Arthur Irving, became the first woman installed as Acadia’s chancellor in May 2011 following a distinguished law career and work in the public service.

Like Campbell, Burnham is an example of how impeccable leadership skills, coupled with some well-guided gusto, can achieve results. She’s a recipient of the Order of Canada distinction, as well as the gold and diamond commemorative jubilee medals handed out on in Queen’s honour.

Burnham said she cares deeply for student success, and she’s enjoyed her time as an unabashed cheerleader for Acadia University.

“For a job I never expected to have, it has been a blast.”

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