As good as it gets

There was pomp, a brass band, and the pageantry of medieval garb as the official party entered Alumni Hall that was packed with more than 2,000 graduates, friends and family members at The University of Western Ontario yesterday. And there I was, wearing a black gown and floppy purple hat with gold tassel, among the faculty in their colorful robes from Canadian universities and such far-off institutions as Oxford.

The occasion was most memorable; I received an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws. To be exact, Doctorem in Legibus (honoris causa), according to the Latin parchment I was given along with a purple-and-white hood that was also mine to keep. The hat and gown had to be returned. You can see me here or listen to my ten-minute speech “Top Ten Secrets of Life” here.

The citation was delivered by Dr. Catherine Ross, Dean of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Among her many kindly comments was this: “With each new book, Rod takes readers on a guided tour behind the closed doors and boardrooms of corporate Canada?- places most of us will never visit in person – he tells us the most compelling stories and makes business history exciting and accessible.”

A few friends were on hand. Beth Schroeder, of London, whose late husband Bob won the London Free Press Editorial award the year before I did in 1963; Jim Erskine, a professor at the Ivey School of Business, and his wife Heather; Don Matthews, a developer we first met while in Ottawa where we both got mixed up in politics, and his friend Pat Royal. Family members present included son Mark and his wife, Andrea Whiting; daughter Alison and her husband, Ken McLeod; and my wife Sandy, who put me through school and is the root cause of any real success I’ve had.

Western’s chancellor Arthur Labatt and President Paul Davenport couldn’t have been more gracious. There was both a lunch on campus and a dinner at the president’s home in my honor.

If the group Monday morning is any measure of the 7,000 who will graduate from Western this week, we are good hands. They all looked eager to get on with life as they came on stage, knelt, and were hooded three at a time. I was seated near one of the action areas so could hear the answers when they were asked, before they rose to leave, “What next?” By my count, about 35-40 per cent plan to do post-graduate studies or go to teachers’ college; another 15-20 per cent have found a job; the rest are still up in the air. The most common answer from this latter group: “I have no idea.” Note to everyone who can: Hire a grad. Our nation needs their contribution.

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