Patrick Lane devoted his life to writing after life-changing moment
Patrick Lane discovered beauty and the fragility of life on a cold Okanagan winter day in 1958, as a 19-year-old labourer. Waiting beside the highway to be picked up for work, the Vernon native found a sapphire butterfly. He cupped it in his hands and went into the warmth of his fruit-picker’s shack. But it was too late and the delicate creature expired.
Shortly thereafter he decided to devote his career to writing and poetry, to nurture and treasure the beauty of life. Thursday, the Vancouver Island author of more than 27 books of poetry, a book of short stories and a memoir of his battles with addiction was awarded an honorary doctoral degree during Convocation ceremonies at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
“There will come a time when a sapphire butterfly will fall into your life,” Lane told graduates. Do not be afraid to embrace it, the Governor General’s Award-winning poet said. “So that beauty may find for brief a period to rest.”
UBC President Prof. Stephen Toope told students they are graduating into a complicated and perplexing world. Governments around the world are fixated on the limited notion that an educated person needs to generate skills to fuel the economy and match available jobs.
“The risk to government is that they set their sights too low,” Toope said. “The skills that we need in our fast-changing society include the ability to work effectively together in teams; to sift, analyze and evaluate the plethora of information that comes at us minute by minute; to draw creative connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”
Toope urged graduates to become engaged citizens.
“Citizens voice opinions and organize their societies’ they take action in the face of injustice and inequality. Educated citizens deploy their critical capacity, and empathetic judgment to become leaders of citizens. That is your potential and one that I wish our governments would more firmly embrace.”
UBC Chancellor Sarah Morgan-Silvester said graduates are entering a transition in their lives, and it takes courage to go from student to the next stage of life. There are setbacks and challenges but these too are part of the transition, she said.
She likened graduation to spring renewal as gardens come to life and warm sunny days replace the dull greyness and cold of winter.
“Change is a challenge. Even so, I do hope you will step out beyond the exposed fault line and seek the growth of your own personal spring.”
UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Okanagan Campus Principal Prof. Deborah Buszard reminded graduates that they are the change agents of the future.
"When you began as students of UBC, you were encouraged to make this university experience your own. Many times during your student lives, you have heard the UBC motto ‘Tuum est. It is yours, or it is up to you’," Buszard said. "Now that you are graduating, this phrase takes on new meaning. The future, in fact, is up to you."
Buszard pointed to the social and environmental challenges that exist in the Okanagan and around the world, reminding the graduating class that their university education and experiences have equipped them to improve their communities and contribute to the world in meaningful ways.
"Our graduates are the impact we have on the world. You make real our ambitions. It is over to you now," Buszard told the graduates. "You have the capacity for bold and great contributions to the world. It is up to you, and we are very proud to have been a part of your preparation for that challenge."
Thursday’s three Convocation ceremonies saw graduates from the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Management, and Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies receive their degrees.
On Friday, students from the Faculty of Education, School of Engineering and the three schools of the Faculty of Health and Social Development – Health and Exercise Sciences, Nursing, and Social Work will graduate during two ceremonies.