I hope you had an interesting summer, and that you were able to take time out to
recharge and refresh body and mind. During my break, the long days and warm nights
were filled with family and friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I had the
great fortune of spending two weeks in Quebec’s beautiful Laurentians, swimming, hiking,
and canoeing on a quiet lake.
And, of course, there were books read simply for pleasure – a vacation luxury. My
favourite of the summer was Just Kids, the memoir by Patti Smith, “Godmother of
Punk,” about her artistic awakening in the New York City of the late 1960s, and her
relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. The book describes the rough spots and
the joyful freedom that characterized that time. Smith writes brilliantly of that era. But
her book is no mere nostalgia trip. One can’t help but be struck by her universal themes
of friendship, the beauty of art, the importance of optimism, of taking risks, and, of
learning to express oneself authentically. Watching McGill’s campuses again hum with
activity, I’m reminded of how inextricably entwined universities are with the awakening
of these elements of life.
The new term has just launched with a fabulous Orientation co-organized by the
Students Society of McGill University (SSMU), McGill’s First Year Office, and the
Macdonald Campus Students’ Society. Orientation was jam-packed with creative and
dynamic activities – including the creation of the world’s largest fruit salad. Not only was
the salad a community exercise in sustainability (more than half of the 11,197 pounds of
fruit was harvested from McGill’s Macdonald campus), it was also used to feed people at
several local charities and street missions. Congratulations to everyone involved in all
our Orientation activities. I know it has meant a lot of hard work, but it has been greatly
appreciated by the many newcomers to our campuses – and by those returning.
This fall our student, faculty, and staff organizations are offering a wide variety of
opportunities to engage and to do some things you’ve never done before. Why not put
doubt aside and try something new? Everything we try is a step toward fuller expression
of our authentic selves.
In closing, I extend a warm welcome to our new students, new professors, and new
staff who are becoming part of the McGill Family for the first time. And, as we all step
forward into the academic year, let’s try to hang onto a bit of that summer feeling. The
warmth. The happiness.
Best wishes and YOLO,