Summer convocation 2020 at the University of Guelph is far from ordinary. But extraordinary efforts have been made to ensure the achievements of grads are applauded.

Although convocation ceremonies have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and graduates will have a chance to attend a future in-person ceremony when possible, a significant effort on the part of colleges, schools and departments is underway to ensure graduation is as memorable as possible.

A highlight of the commemoration is a special convocation “keepsake box” being sent to all winter and summer graduates by mail, prepared by U of G’s office of ceremonies and events.

Each one contains an event ticket directing the grad to a website where they can view a special celebration video. In it, the University’s President Franco Vaccarino and Provost and Vice-President Charlotte Yates bestow degrees.

“We are so very, very proud of you and your accomplishments here at the University of Guelph,” Vaccarino says in the video.

The video celebrates special 2020 moments in the U of G community, featuring aerial views of campus, moments of learning in classrooms, images of gatherings and events. It applauds the accomplishments of grads, delivering the message that each one has proven they were up to the challenge of earning a degree while turning classroom learning into practical experience.

convocation keepsake box

“Our graduates will never forget the year when they had to move from on-campus and in the classroom to at home and online,” said Ray Darling, University registrar. “I hope they have learned what is possible when we are challenged and how to turn a crisis into an opportunity. I hope they all realize how proud of them we are for finishing their degrees in such unusual circumstances.”

The red keepsake box, about the size of a hardcover textbook, is adorned with the University’s crest on the lid and “University of Guelph” in gold lettering on the side.

The box holds a folder with the graduate’s degree, a four-page souvenir program, a red and gold tassel, a congratulatory letter from the college dean and a biodegradable confetti cannon. Upon receiving the special box, grads will be encouraged on the enclosed ticket to capture the moment and share on social media.

“Given that we are unable to host a ceremony and celebrate with our graduating students, we wanted to elevate the delivery of their degrees,” said Claire Alexander, special projects manager in the Office of Ceremonies and Events. “We hope that the specially designed boxes will be a treasured keepsake for our graduates.”

convocation box event ticket

Tributes to grads have also flooded social media. Several departments organized virtual ceremonies and toasts with graduates. Colleges put out congratulatory videos featuring college deans, department chairs and faculty, all with messages of praise. U of G president Franco Vaccarino also made a video especially for graduates.

With the convocation season comes the announcement of the annual student awards. They are as follows:

The W.C. Winegard Medal went to Sidra Mohammed, Ontario Agricultural College. The medal is the top convocation award for an undergraduate in recognition of both academic achievement and contributions to university and community life.

The D.F. Forster (Magisteriate) Award went to Heather Petrick, College of Biological Science, in recognition of a master’s graduate’s academic achievement, motivation, leadership and citizenship.

The D.F. Forster (Doctoral) Award went to PhD grad Fatima Haque, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

The W.N. Vaughan Medal went to Cameron Stotts, Ontario Veterinary College and College of Biological Science. The medal recognizes a student senator for high academic achievement and involvement in student governance activities.