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At long last, they're graduates
Monday December 2, 2002

Singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt receives an honorary Doctor of Letters degree,
and the congratulations of Chancellor John Cleghorn, at Wilfrid Laurier University's
convocation in Waterloo yesterday.

WATERLOO -- Better late than never -- that was the general sentiment at Wilfrid Laurier University's belated fall convocation yesterday.

The ceremony was originally slated for Nov. 3, but was put on ice during the seven-week strike by 400 WLU support workers early in the academic year.

The delay annoyed graduating psychology major Ryan Pettepier, who had been hoping to close the book on his university education as soon as possible.

"When you graduate, you just want to get your diploma, get out, and get on with the rest of your life," he said after donning his robe yesterday. "So it was a pretty stressful situation during the strike."

Pettepier admitted he would have given up on the ceremony entirely, had it not been for the prodding of his parents.

"This is more of a show for them, since they're the ones who put the most money into the education," he said with a laugh.

Heather Borm, graduating with a master of business administration degree, said she was relieved the university re-scheduled the ceremony.

"To not have any celebration of your accomplishments would be pretty anti-climactic, to say the least," she said. "The postponement was annoying, but I'm glad we're doing it now."

Her husband, Etienne Borm, said yesterday's ceremony marked the end of a costly era.

"I've been financially wrapped up in her education, so I'm happy to get that over with."

At least one graduating student saw the rescheduling of the ceremony as a good thing. Emanuele Bachut spent a semester studying psychology on an exchange program in Australia. The WLU strike prevented her grades and credits from being properly transferred, so technically she could not have graduated if the ceremony had been held on its original date.

With the change of date also came a change of venue. Yesterday's ceremony could not be held at the usual place, the Waterloo Recreation Complex, so was instead staged in the gym at WLU's Athletic Centre.

The location made for a unusual convocation, as friends and family of students crammed shoulder to shoulder on wooden bleachers. Many munched on popcorn served by a courtside vendor as graduates marched in.

It was a standing-room-only affair, to the dismay of Sharon McFarlane, who came from Guelph to see her husband Chad get his MBA diploma.

"It's kind of disenchanting to drive here and not be able to park or find a place to sit," she said while standing at the back of the gym. "But still, it's worth it, even if I only get to see the back of (Chad's) head and his graduation gown."

Graduates were addressed by renowned Celtic singer/composer Loreena McKennitt, who received an honorary Doctor of Letters.

The two-time Juno award winner, who has sold 14 million albums worldwide, was recognized for her charity and community work in Stratford, where she lives.

In her address, she spoke of life as a journey in which people must "set aside barriers of cynicism and prejudice" and strive to help others.