Address from the Graduate – Jennifer Rae Hardy-Parr

Each year, the Registrar’s office selects, for each day of convocation, an accomplished graduate to present an address to the graduates. On day three of graduation, the honour went to Jennifer Rae Hardy-Parr who graduated with a Bachelor of Management degree. For those who could not attend, Jennifer has kindly allowed the Voice to print her speech in its entirety. Watch next week for another graduate address. You can also watch Jennifer’ss speech via online video through the link on this page:

Mr. Chairman, Mr. President, Elected Officials, Distinguished Guests, Members of the Platform Party, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I was both honoured and overwhelmed when Mr. D’Arcy asked me to deliver the graduate address here today. Upon mulling over the different things that I wanted to say, my thoughts keep returning to the topic of balance.

My husband, Philip, and I live on a dairy farm in the hamlet of Hoards Station – approximately 3 hours north-east of Toronto. I call it a hamlet because with a population of 51 people we are not nearly big enough to be classified as a village. The town of Athabasca is much bigger than our little hamlet, but certainly has a “?home town’ feel. Since arriving yesterday we have patronized a number of stores and have found everyone very welcoming!

One of the happiest times on the farm is when a calf is born and the importance of balance quickly becomes apparent. Within minutes of birth, calves attempt to stand. First the hind end goes up and then the front. The ability to stand, walk and maintain balance allows the calves to feed and is consequently a necessary life skill. What amazes me is how a concept as necessary and basic as balance is so difficult for humans to master. I for one continue to struggle with the life skill of maintaining balance.

It is with tremendous courage that I stand before you today, as I am about to tell you one of my more embarrassing moments. Generally, farm houses are known for their steep stairways and our home is no different. Our stairs consists of 11 steps down a near vertical slope, a 90˚ turn, and then 3 more steps before the decent is complete. This spring I attempted to scale down the staircase carrying 2 laundry baskets — one in each arm. Now, I am not sure what exactly happened next, but I do know that I careened down those stairs faster than any human being before me. I made the 90˚ turn, and landed in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. The laundry was everywhere! I laid there for a while trying to regain my senses, and then the worst thing imaginable occurred… the phone rang! I crawled around the corner into the kitchen to answer. It was my sister-in-law. I told her what had just happened and I can honestly say I have never heard anyone laugh so hard in all my life! Through gasps for air my sister-in-law asked if I was alright, and I was. My body and ego were a bit bruised, but I was ok.

The reason I relayed this embarrassing story to you is because it is a fine example of how difficult it is to learn balance. My tumble down the stairway was not a result of poor physical coordination, (at least not in my opinion) as I have traveled up and down them numerous times without difficulty. My fall was rooted in a problem that we all struggle with from time to time — the ability to balance our lives and workload. I was overloaded with the two laundry baskets and probably wouldn’t have fallen if I had taken them down the stairs one at a time. And so a life lesson was learned — If you don’t create a balance within your life you will fall and pay the consequences.

The graduates here today assume many roles: we are Daughters and Sons, Husbands and Wives, Sisters and Brothers, Mothers and Fathers, Aunts and Uncles, Employees and Business partners. Over the past few years this group of graduates elected to assume the additional role of being an Athabasca University student. Each of us knows how it is difficult to balance all of these life roles and successfully fulfill what is expected of us. Each graduate can easily recall the sacrifices and concessions they had to make in order to be able to sit up here today. However, I for one am glad it wasn’t an easy road. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia Chronicles, noted that “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” I now cherish all the hours of hard work, sleepless nights and stress filled days as it makes today that much more precious.

Athabasca University convocations are unique given the fact that the graduates are located on the stage… and I have to say the view from up here is great! We graduates can see the Athabasca University staff. Since inception in 1970, Athabasca University has experienced continual success and has grown to be Canada’s largest distance educational institution with a student population in excess of 30,000 people. This success is a direct result of the calibre of people employed by Athabasca University. Distance education has the potential to leave students feeling isolated from tutors, academic coordinators, professors and administrative staff, however, the AU Staff manages to overcome this challenge through their friendliness and sincerity. I was never treated with indifference or as “just another number.” Being a “flexible” University, students are able to take advantage of Athabasca’s year round registration policy. At first I was concerned about this element because I though such flexibility would be an administrative nightmare for the University and could result in mass disorganization and confusion. However, I was always met with a high level of efficiency and competence. These traits that the AU staff possesses are critical in helping each student maintain a balance in his/her own life. Thank you.

From the stage we can also see our friends and family who are beaming with affection over our accomplishments. For those family members and friends that could not be here today, for one reason or another… you know that their chests are just bursting with pride for you — the class of 2006! On behalf of the graduates here today, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of the family members and friends. Your love, encouragement and understanding kept us from falling when we felt overloaded with work. Without your support we would not be sitting here today. Thank you so much!

Now please join me in Congratulating the Class of 2006!