Just what was said: Words of wisdom from Honorary Degree recipients

By Dale Johnson Posted: June 13, 2018 1:30 p.m.

Sheldon Kennedy was one of those receiving honourary degrees at the 2018 Spring Convocation.
Sheldon Kennedy was one of those receiving honourary degrees at the 2018 Spring Convocation. Photos: U of R Photography.

Highlights from speeches by this year’s Honorary Degree recipients:

Wednesday, June 7, 2018 – Sheldon Kennedy, advocate to prevent child abuse and bullying, stemming from his own experience of being sexually abused by his coach while playing for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League:

My message is about hope, and courage, and about never giving up. Those three things have brought me to this stage today.

I don’t work to fight child abuse for awards; I do it to help others. I think it is important to know that when you give back, and you help others, and you take care of yourself, good things can happen.

For a long time I didn’t know that. I was that person who was the troublemaker, that person struggling with mental health or addiction issues.

People would say: “What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he just get it together?”

So I think if I can represent anything here today, I think there is hope for all of us to be who we believe we can be.

When we started doing this work, we could clear a room because nobody wanted to listen to the issues we represented and how we wanted to make changes in how child abuse is handled. But that’s not the way it is today.

I want to really thank the University of Regina for the courage of recognizing Sheldon Kennedy, who represents some difficult issues – but issues that we definitely need to pay attention to. It’s an honour to be here today, and I accept this honorary degree with great gratitude.

Thursday, June 8, 2018 – Philanthropists Roberta McKay and Elmer Brenner have over the years touched the lives of many people, particularly in the arts and health care areas:


Elmer Brenner: Eminent Chancellor, President Timmons, members of the board of governors and senate, graduates, faculty, staff, friends, families, ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to thank the University for the opportunity and honour of recognizing our contributions.

All these ventures have been extremely gratifying for us – extremely gratifying. When we consider our involvement in community activities, we always ask ourselves: “What is our intention?” Public recognition was not one of the intentions.

Roberta McKay: We believe if we support people with our positive and well-meaning intentions, it will bring positive results. We firmly believe in doing things for the right reasons. So, please think carefully about what your intention is. That is the key.

Again, thank you for this honour, and thank you to all for helping us reach this stage in our lives.

Friday, June 9, 2018 – Brad Hornung, a former Regina Pats star and University of Regina alumnus was 18 when his dream of a professional hockey career came to a sudden end in a game in 1987 when he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic:

To the graduates, spoiler alert: I have both good news and bad news for you - but rest assured at the end of the day, it’s mainly good news.

I want you to think back to some of the challenges you faced during your studies here. You had to learn how to balance school, work, family life, and time with friends. You probably had difficult classes, and – on rare occasions – maybe even difficult professors or classmates.  

You are on this stage today because you found something in yourself that helped you overcome these challenges. What you found in yourself might have been something you didn’t even know you had. How you responded to adversity in those difficult times has helped to define you, show your character, and get you here today.

This is an exciting day for you, and I know there are many more exciting times ahead.

But it’s important to understand that, like your university experience, in your life, you will also have difficult days, times of tremendous challenge, pain, heartbreak, and loss.

In those dark times I know you will find something in yourself that will help you move in a positive way.

As humans, we are remarkably fragile and vulnerable.

But we are also remarkably resilient.  


If I can serve as an example of that for even just one of you, my time here will have been well spent.

The day before my accident, when I was 18 years old, if you had told me I would become a quadriplegic, I would have said three things to you.

The first I cannot repeat in polite company.

The second would have been: “This will never happen to me.”

And the third would have been: “If that happens, my life as I know it will be over.” 

On the surface, there was no evidence to demonstrate that an independent 18-year-old Brad would have handled such an injury very well at all.

But in retrospect, I handled it far better than I ever imagined I would have.

I am not a special or isolated case, because I see it happen every day. I see it in people who come through the doors of the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre, people like my former neighbour, a fellow quadriplegic, who is now in Law School at the University of Saskatchewan. And we are seeing it in the recovery of those who were affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy.

If there’s a moral to my story, it’s that people tend to underestimate themselves, and how well they would react to different circumstances. You may be one of those people.

But you need to believe in yourself, knowing in your heart that you will find a way to cope with whatever life throws at you.

I don’t fully understand how we find that strength in difficult times, but we nearly always do.

So to sum up, the bad news is that unpleasant things are going to happen to all of you at one time or another in your lives. Sadly, that is a fact.

The good news, however, is that you have the strength within you to face these challenges in ways that you cannot even imagine right now. Happily, that is also a fact - and it's the most important fact to remember.

Congratulations on your graduation. Please don’t ever forget that even in what might seem like your darkest hour, there is always a place in your life for hope.

More coverage of Spring Convocation 2018:

1,000th graduate of SCBScN program crosses stage today at Spring Convocation

Childhood pals are all part of the same graduating class within the same faculty at the University of Regina

Largest Spring Convocation ever gets underway today

Giving back: Graduate donates research equipment