“STU is a Place of Potential” - Celebrating 2023 Spring Convocation

Valedictorian Leanne Hudson hopes her fellow graduates will embrace change and growth to reach their full potential.

She spoke to the more than 300 graduates who received degrees in social work, applied arts, and arts at the 2023 Spring Convocation about how much the members of the graduating class have grown over the last four years.


“At the beginning of our degree, we all carried a vision of what university would be like, who we could become, and what we were working towards. I think I can speak for many when I say…  we really didn’t know anything,” said Hudson, who is from Annapolis Royal, NS.

“As we met new people, discovered our interests, became inspired by our teachers, and got more involved in our campus - we changed. Each of us have had instances of this change and have become more of who we are supposed to be in the process. St. Thomas has been a place of potential for many of us. 

“Among our graduates today there will be future experts in social justice, activists, environmentalists, innovators, athletes, social workers, educators, technicians, change-makers, researchers, lawyers, marketing and communication specialists, doctors and psychologists, advocates, musicians and actors, and the list goes on. These individuals have proven throughout their years at STU that they are caring, passionate, well-educated, and diverse people who carry strong moral compasses in all they do.”


Commitment, Hard Work, and Resiliency

(Acting) President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Kim Fenwick commended the graduates on their commitment, hard work, and resiliency – especially as they completed their degrees during a global pandemic.

“Over weeks, months, and years, your dedication, creativity, and compassion were evident as you worked together and supported each other. You found new ways to connect with professors and classmates, learn from courses, earn your credits, and graduate. The qualities that you developed through your studies and the resiliency that you displayed through tough days will serve you well in the future,” she said.

“You contributed to the richness and vibrancy, the caring and compassion that characterizes STU.”

Honouring Remarkable Individuals

During the ceremony, honorary degrees were bestowed upon Melanie Ann Ross and Ted Nolan.


Melanie Ross is a vocalist and artistic director. She has been a preserver and promoter of traditional music, keeping the history of the “old songs” alive. During Convocation, she sang “The Banks of the Miramichi”.

Ted Nolan is an award-winning hockey coach and philanthropist. As a player and coach, Ted Nolan faced discrimination and racism – he went from ‘loving the game to surviving the game’ – though his success provided him with the opportunity to inspire Indigenous youth. 

In his address to graduates, Nolan spoke about finding opportunities in adversity. Despite having won the Coach of the Year award in the NHL in 1997, ten years later, he was unemployed as a coach. Although frustrated, he decided to take the opportunity to make an impact in a different way. In 2004, he started the Ted Nolan Foundation to honour his late mother Rose and established the Rose Nolan Scholarship Fund which has provided scholarships to Indigenous women continuing their education. The foundation raised $2 million and awarded scholarships to over 130 women. 

“Being a professional hockey coach, I know that you can't win all the time. I think failure is one of the best teachers we have in life. So, what happened to be a failure at one thing, opened up the door for another thing.”

He eventually returned to coaching and led the Moncton Wildcats to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League President’s Cup in 2006. His international experience includes coaching the Latvian Men’s National Team to the 2014 Sochi Olympics. 

In 2013, he set up the 3Nolans Hockey School with his sons, Brandon and Jordan. They travel across Canada to develop the hockey skills of Indigenous youth, and speak about the importance of active lifestyles and leadership in their communities.


“Life is going to throw you many curves and ups and downs, but you just have to stay true to who you are and believe in who you are and enjoy life.”


University Medals

  • University Medal for Arts: Adam McDougall, from Calgary, AB (Honours in Political Science)
  • University Medal for Social Work: Brandy-Leigh Parr, from Fredericton, NB (Mi’kmaq Maliseet Bachelor of Social Work)
  • Governor General’s Medal: Mason Rattee, from Delta, BC (Honours in Great Books)


Honouring Faculty Members
St. Thomas University honoured five faculty members for their professional achievements and impact on the university.

  • Dr. William (Bill) Randall (Gerontology) received the designation Professor Emeritus.
  • Dr. Erin Fredericks (Sociology) received the John McKendy Memorial Teaching Award.
  • Dr. Janice Harvey (Environment and Society) received the Award for Excellence in Part-Time Teaching.
  • Dr. Kristi Allain (Sociology) received the University Scholarship Award.
  • Dr. Karla O’Regan (Criminology and Criminal Justice) received the University Service Award.

Read more about the Dr. William Randall here. Read more about the Faculty Merit Awards recipients here.