Be open to opportunity, even if it strays from the path you’ve chosen for yourself, former Canadian auditor general Sheila Fraser told graduates at the Tuesday, June 10, afternoon session of Western’s 303rd Convocation.
“Even if your heart is set on a particular direction, you should expect there will be a few twists and turns along the way,” she said. “You may welcome the unexpected; good things can happen if you stay open to opportunities.”
Fraser spoke to graduates from King’s University College and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the Tuesday, June 10, afternoon session of Western’s 303rd Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon Fraser for her work in recognizing the need for accountability of federal government operations.
She told graduates some of the best things to come of her career were the result of happenstance and having an open mind.
“I know some will tell you to plan out your careers. I encourage you not to limit yourselves. Don’t be so fixated on a goal that you miss a chance to go in a new direction,” she said.
The first woman to hold the position, Fraser was auditor general from 2001-11 and focused the office’s efforts on serving the needs of parliamentarians, ensuring they have objective and reliable information with which to scrutinize government activities and hold the government to account for its stewardship of public funds.
Prior to joining the Office of the Auditor General, Fraser enjoyed a challenging career with the firm of Ernst & Young, where she became a partner in 1981. In the Quebec City office, she was responsible for a wide range of private- and public-sector clients.
For her noteworthy service to the auditing and accounting professions, she was awarded the Prix Émérite 1993 and the designation Fellow by the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec in 1994 and by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 2000. She received the Governor General’s medal commemorating Canada’s 125th anniversary in 1992.
Fraser has also been awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from several universities that recognize her contribution to the fields of accounting and legislative auditing. She currently sits on the boards of directors of Bombardier, Manulife Financial Corporation and The Ottawa Food Bank.
In his citation, King’s Principal David Sylvester praised Fraser for her dedication to integrity and years of service, which scrutinized the Canadian government for the benefit of all Canadians.
“No sitting government or opposition was spared from her scrutiny,” Sylvester said.
Fraser had an admirable professional and personal integrity, which aimed to shed light on things that threatened democracy in our country, he added. Her work was “invaluable work for Canada.”
Graduates must not be afraid to speak the truth, Fraser concluded. One day, the opportunity to speak truth and criticize authority will present itself; graduates must never shy away from such circumstances.
“Muster your courage and stand up for what you believe is right,” she said.
“If you approach your life with the goal of remaining positive and determined, learning all you can and doing your best, holding fast to your values and believing in your own gifts, you won’t have to find success; you will already be successful.”
Also during the ceremony, the status of professor emerita was conferred upon King’s professor Diane Humphrey, while the King’s University College Award for Excellence in Teaching by Full Time Faculty was presented to Alison Meek.