Red Deer College President Ron Woodward said he finally felt like a graduating student Friday.
The much respected and visionary retiring college head delivered the convocation address to 400 graduating students in what he described as an honour and a privilege.
“But more than ever in my years here I feel like one of you today.
“Well graduates . . . we’ve made it. We’re done,” he said to much cheering from the graduates.
“We’re ready to take on the world in the next part of our life journey.”
“For me at RDC it’s been part of an amazing 11-year journey.”
Woodward, who steps down in the fall, said the highlights of his tenure have always been the graduation exercises.
“Because they’re all about you and your success,” he told graduates and about 2,000 assembled guests.
The college graduated about 1,800 students but this year’s turnout was the largest gathering in the college’s 45-year history.
The college also handed out several awards at the Centrium ceremony including the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus to Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen a former Red Deer resident.
The G. H. Dawe Memorial Award of Excellence was awarded to former Red Deer MP Bob Mills while the RDC Foundation Outstanding Student Award went to Marshall Boyd.
The Governor General’s Academic Medal went to Jessica Bot.
Janzen, who joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1990 after a year at RDC, rose quickly through the ranks after attending officer’s school with the Canadian Army.
He has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and another in Serbia.
His military path led him to public affairs and a Calgary posting as head of National Defence Public Affairs for the Prairies and northern Canada.
Most recently he was appointed the director of public affairs for the Canadian Army.
“It’s very humbling to be recognized in this way,” Janzen said.
He said education is a privilege.
On his recent tour in Afghanistan Janzen said he learned that 80 per cent of the people in Kandahar province can’t read or write.
“I can tell you they covet what you and I take for granted the education we can get here and in Canada.”
He told graduates to use the knowledge they’ve acquired at college to become a “force for good in your community and for our country.”
Woodward acknowledged the support and encouragement he’s received over the years from the faculty, staff, board of governors and the community.
“Your support has enabled me to live a life long dream.”
He asked the graduates to think about what made their college life memorable.
Woodward said the common thread for everyone is people.
“It’s people who have enabled you and me to be here today.”
He said learning “is at the core of every thing we do. It enables us to get through every single day.”
Woodward said people and relationships are what really matter.
“It’s interesting that we pursue and covet stuff.
“We get an education and a career to get more money so we can get more stuff.
“But really it’s the personal relationships and the people you learn from every day that what life is all about.
“It’s not the stuff.”