By Marc Venema and Jack Carver
Belleville resident Mary Elizabeth Webster is the top student at Loyalist College this year.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Webster said on her 97.28 percent average. “There was obviously individual effort but I had a fabulous staff and fabulous co-students and the teachers just made learning fun and easy.”
Webster, who moved to the Belleville area while in high school previously studied architecture, hotel management, and massage therapy, before starting at Loyalist College two years ago in the business program.
“I think when you go to school a couple times you learn how you learn, and how you learn best,” Webster said. “I think that I took advantage of that knowledge to get where I am today.”
Webster was one of the almost 2,000 students who graduated from Loyalist College last week. Families and friends packed into the college’s gymnasium for four separate convocations last Thursday and Friday.
Biotechnology technician student Jaymin Patel was one of the students who didn’t see family when he looked out into the crowd. A native of India, Patel’s family was unable to make it.
“I’m actually missing my parents right now, they couldn’t make it, but they may watch live stream.”
Patel said while certain aspects of his future remain uncertain, one thing is clear.
“Maybe I’m going to find some job, but I am staying in Canada.”
The graduates now join the more than 30,000 alumni of Loyalist College.
“The convocation is the highlight of the year,” said Stuart Wright, chair of the Loyalist College board of governors in an interview. “It’s when you see the results of everything that’s been done.”
“They’ve been working hard and here it is; the payoff.”
Wright said as chair of the board, he’s accustomed to shaking lots of hands and posing for photo-ops throughout the community, but convocation stands out above the rest.
“We refer to it as the grip-and-grin process, it comes with the territory,” Wright said. “But this one’s special because this one’s inside Loyalist.”
“All the other things involve outside agencies but this one’s all about the college, it’s all about the students, it’s all about the faculty, so it’s number one.”
Loyalist College president Maureen Piercy called the events “the ultimate celebration.”
“It’s the most wonderful day of the year,” Piercy said in an interview. “It’s a day of great pride for us and for the graduating students and their families.”
“They’ve achieved a wonderful important step in their lives.”
On Thursday morning, the schools of architecture and building sciences, health sciences and skills training listened to a speech from guest speaker Jayson Mayers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
Mayers told students to work hard and take all the skills they’ve acquired at Loyalist to stand out above others, like many Loyalist grads have done in the past.
“I’m talking to people in business all the time and I know how dependent they are on people who are graduating from Loyalist College.” Mayers said in an interview.
Rod McQueen spoke to graduates from the centre for justice studies and the school of business and management studies on Thursday afternoon.
McQueen, a business journalist and author had a strong message for graduates.
“Believe in yourself, take risks, put some changes into your life from time to time, don’t just follow a straight path,” McQueen said in an interview.
McQueen said he and his wife took off on several occasions to travel to Europe.
“People always say ‘Oh, I wish I could do that’,” McQueen said. “Well you can, all you have to do is go and do it.”
“We shouldn’t get tied to our possessions, or they end up possessing us,” McQueen said. “The only way we can grow is to repot ourselves every once in a while.”
Webster hopes to be back up on the stage next year to defend her award for highest average of a graduating student. She has her sights set on the advanced diploma in the business program.
“I really strive to be as good as I can be,” Webster said. “I was way more focused, learning was totally different and to be recognized for that hard work was amazing.”