First in-person Convocation for Chancellor McCall MacBain

Chancellor John McCall reviews notes from a valedictorian speech he gave at the same stage 41 years ago Owen Egan / Johnny Dufour

The morning of November 25, 2021 was one of the first. This was the first time since October 2019 that recent McGill alumni were able to cross the convocation stage. The fall 2021 morning gala ceremony was the first time in more than two years that family and friends could gather to celebrate their loved ones’ academic achievements. The ceremony was the first time John McClain chaired a personal invitation since his appointment as McGill’s advisor on July 1, 2021.

McCall MacBain began his speech by expressing how proud he was of the Bicentennial Graduation Class. “Nothing could have prepared you for a college experience that requires you to attend online classes, isolate from your family and friends, and adjust to an entirely new way of living,” the chancellor said. “Congratulations to the students and faculty for your inner strength in facing this unexpected obstacle.”

From top student to advisor

Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Chancellor graduated from McGill University with a BA with Honors in Arts in 1980. In fact, he told the audience, “I actually stood on this podium as a valedictorian just over 41 years ago.” Keep sharing five lessons he’s learned since his last appearance on the Place des Arts.

The first lesson, he said, is that you never know when you had a good day. He remembered twice in his life when he was fired. The first time, at the age of 17, it led him to start a small business that paid for his education at McGill. The second time, when he was 29 years old, he made him buy Trader Classified Media, the company he created into a multinational that employs 7,500 people in 23 countries. “Those were two really bad days when they happened, but they actually turned out to be very good.”

The second advice of the counselor: limit your pride and arrogance. “People who act like kings adapt slowly. Change and adaptation hurt their pride because they have to admit that their old ways no longer work. Ego that precedes abilities leads to a false sense of security.”

Don’t be afraid to take some chances

Third, on Chancellor MacLean’s life lessons: Take a risk, even if it means the possibility of sarcasm. And he remembers applying for 35 Harvard MBA scholarships — and lost 34. “I could be ridiculed as the biggest scholarship loser,” he recalls, “but I took the risk.”

For his fourth wisdom, the chancellor gave the graduating students in the fall of 2021 some homework. He suggested that happiness and success can only be found when the answers to three questions overlap: What do you like to do? What are you good at? And what can you do for the benefit of humanity, human progress and employment? He urged graduates to spend their time exploring these questions. “Others will tell you—by your academic grades, or by hiring you, getting fired, job evaluations, etc.—what you are good at, and only you know what you want.”

Ethics was the subject of the fifth counseling area. “How many times have people made bad decisions because they thought no one would find out?” question. “If you don’t want your friends to read about it on the front page of the newspaper, or on the Internet, don’t. Suppose your decisions will be public.”

Chancellor McCall McBean closed in with a few words of insight from his 1980 arrest letter, written in a time of punch cards and typewriters, not smartphones and global pandemics: “Although many of the topics we studied at McGill may not be relevant or remembered in the future.” , we learned to think — and no future changes will make thinking obsolete.”

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