Success is measured by what you have contributed positively to society, said Michael Meighen, lawyer, retired Canadian Senator and past president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Meighen and his wife, Kelly, spoke to graduates from Brescia University College, Huron University College, the Don Wright Faculty of Music, as well as the faculties of Arts & Humanities, Engineering, Health Sciences and Science at the Thursday, Oct. 31, afternoon session of Western’s 302nd Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon the Meighens in recognition of their philanthropy and dedication to public service.
“You’ve been provided with great opportunity to pursue your careers, but also the opportunity to contribute beyond, or through your career, to the betterment of the society you live in,” Michael Meighen said.
The education graduates received at Western, as well as the people they know today and will meet tomorrow, will open opportunities, ones they must seize, he continued.
Michael Meighen graduated from McGill and Laval universities and has since had a successful career in the law, politics and charitable patronage, most notably as co-chair of McGill’s fundraising campaign.
Kelly Meighen, a graduate of Huron, is president of the T.R. Family Meighen Foundation — which bears the name of Michael’s father, Theodore Roosevelt Meighen, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen.
She has served Western’s Board of Governors in several capacities, currently serving as the chair of The 1878 Societies and the deputy chair for student support programs on the Volunteer Campaign Cabinet for Western’s $750-million Be Extraordinary fundraising campaign.
By way of their personal contributions, and those of their foundation, Kelly and Michael Meighen have donated more than $2 million to Western’s academic initiatives and capital projects, ranging from scholarships and nursing education to the construction of the Engineering’s Claudette McKay‐Lassonde Pavilion, and, most recently, the Paul Davenport Theatre.
Kelly Meighen spoke of her struggles with anxiety while a student, encouraging graduates to advocate for their own, and for others’ mental health.
“None of us is immune from the threat of mental illness. We have made progress on the stigma surrounding mental illness, but many young people still struggle,” she said, noting the topic is still considered taboo to some.
“We don’t know how to start the conversation; it’s awkward. We don’t know the way in.”
She encouraged graduates to reach out for help not only for themselves but for their friends and loved ones also.
In his citation, Western President Amit Chakma praised the couple’s generosity and dedication to philanthropy and public service.
“Together, and separately, Kelly and Michael have supported an astounding list of causes and institutions that sets an inspiring example of leadership for others to follow,” he said.
“But the impact of the Meighens’ community service activities reaches far beyond Western’s campus. Kelly and Michael’s $5-million gift to Stratford in 2000 marked the largest single donation in the festival’s 50-year history, and they have both served the festival as dedicated volunteers in various roles over the years,” he added.
“Beyond Stratford and Western, the couple has given time, expertise and financial support to the arts, mental health, wildlife conservation, health care and social services.”