Congratulations!! Susan Crocker, Doctor of Laws honoris causa

posted July 6th, 2012 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

At this time of year, we hear about  the convocation addresses to the graduating classes of various universities which are remarkable for one reason or another. In May of this year, I heard a remarkable address to the graduating class of St. Francis Xavier University by my dear friend Susan Crocker. Susan was giving this address because the university had conferred upon her a Doctor of Laws honoris causa. I was inspired to see someone I admire for a whole host of reasons be recognized by a respected institution who also admired her for a whole host of reasons.


Susan has made a significant contribution to the university, in particular, The Coady International Institute. Her address to the graduating class in May of this year explained how she got involved with Coady and St. Francis Xavier University. I thought it might inspire others to take the same initiative in their own lives and asked for her permission to share her words here with you and she agreed.


This is a special day for everyone assembled here.   Class of 2012, arriving at this moment is a product of your tenacity, drive, will, and passion – aided by the support you have received from those that care for you and have a stake in your success – family and friends of course, and also the faculty and staff of St FX for helping challenge and inspire you.  You are now fully formed in terms of your undergraduate experience and goals, and ready to launch.  This IS a special day.


I am honored to share this moment with you, and am incredibly proud to be recognized by this fine University that I have come to know and cherish.  My path here came about through Coady International Institute, based at St FX.   I was attracted to its purpose, values and impact.  That initial path of introduction then widened into a rich field – as I came to know St. FX and appreciate that the values of the two organizations are intertwined, as is the desire to build leaders.


Six years ago, I stumbled upon Coady.  I responded to a notice of a presentation in Toronto.  The words that caught my eye were Global, Leadership, Micro finance, Women and India.  Global because my career and life have taken me to and interested me in the broader world, and I believe deeply that we must be global citizens.  Leadership is my vocation.  Micro finance was gaining publicity and with a background in financial markets I was curious about this model. Women – raising them up economically is a critical development issue.  And India fascinated me as a complex, rapidly changing country.  The hook was in.


The three words, or names I would come to know more about that evening were Coady, Antigonish and St Francis Xavier University.


I listened to the story of a unique women-lead organization and bank, SEWA that was helping move thousands of Indian women from abject poverty to economic self-sufficiency.  This was powerful.  The speaker, Mary Coyle, then the Director of Coady International Institute, described Coady’s relationship with SEWA – educating its leaders, partnering on development research, and training.  Through the course of the evening it became clear that this was only a fraction of the work of the Institute.  I was stunned.  Here, in Canada, in Antigonish, at this University, was a half-century history of helping people help themselves, in communities across the globe. The antithesis of aid-based development.  Coady is about investing in the leaders.  How truly common sense.  How important.  How did I now know about this?


Let me accelerate.  I introduced myself to the Director and asked to become involved.   It became clear as it had in all of my volunteer work that Coady needed champions to help tell its story and build financial resources – in other words, strengthen the organization for the next 50 years.  I signed up, and it has been a rewarding, fulfilling journey.


Let me share one particular highlight.  My husband and I were fortunate to travel with other Coady supporters to India and Nepal on the 50th anniversary of Coady Institute – the goal was to meet graduates and experience the impact they are having on the ground, in their communities.


We flew one day from Katmandu to a valley in central Nepal. Our host was a medical Doctor.  And a Coady graduate.  By the end of that day we met other graduates of Coady, all of whom had applied their education here to creating transformative economic models in their community.  They were introducing innovations to improve local agricultural marketing, medical services, education and radio access.  There, in the heart of the Himalayas, they referred to their region as Coady Valley.  And they talked fondly of St. FX, and Antigonish.  They feel a very powerful connection here.


We attended a 50th anniversary party in Delhi.  Coady graduates, of whom there are more than 700 in India, came from every corner of the country to celebrate.  Some traveled for days, in some cases overcoming great financial challenges to attend.  All wanted to share their progress and celebrate as alumni.


I came to understand that Coady is very well known and respected globally, and it is always heartening to see the reaction from fellow Canadians when they learn of its work.


During your tenure at St FX, Coady Institute relocated physically to the heart of campus.  You have walked the paths, dined in the hall and studied in the library with adult learners who have traveled here from unimaginably challenging situations in order to raise their communities to the next level.  You may have made a direct or indirect connection to them, by hearing their stories or through your own engagement in community service – in Antigonish or abroad. Service Learning is so valued at St FX.  These opportunities link you to the complexities that other communities and nations experience. They create empathy.  And stoke generosity.


You are now embarking on a journey with many options and possibilities.  Do so knowing that you have an important personal connection to a mission from St FX that is about valuing and developing leaders, building strong communities, thinking and connecting globally… all from Antigonish.


In the course of your careers, you will no doubt cross paths with many other fine graduates of St FX.  Extend your sight lines, and your global and humanitarian experience, and you will also meet up with graduates of Coady.  St FX and Coady.  A great, global legacy.


A quote from Reverend Moses Coady speaks to this mission and legacy:


‘If we are wise, we will help the people everywhere to get the good and abundant life”


Thank you.







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