Arsenault tells grads ‘chance will change you the most’

Today’s graduates must embrace the unknown and the lessons it will bring, said journalist Adrienne Arsenault.

Arsenault spoke to graduates from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, as well as the faculties of Engineering, Education, Arts & Humanities, Science, Law, Social Science and Information and Media Studies at the Friday, Nov. 1, afternoon session of Western’s 302nd Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon Arsenault in recognition of her distinguished career as a journalist.

“You will still face all these tests, but they will arrive unscheduled. The greatest will come in moments of complete surprise,” Arsenault said. “It’s likely that chance will change you the most.”

Originally from Toronto, Arsenault graduated from St. Clement’s School as Head Girl. She went on to study Political Science at Huron University College, after which she continued at Western, graduating with an MA in Journalism. In fact, Arsenault made her broadcasting debut at CHRW, Western’s campus community station.

Two years ago, Arsenault received the Huron Medal of Distinction. Her presenter, professor Jim Crimmins, remembered her “as an intelligent, industrious and meticulous student, judicious in her appraisal of political ideas and institutions, who wrote exceedingly well.”

Crimmins then added, “Looking back, it is evident the fine qualities she brings to her reporting were, for the most part, fixed those many years ago. She has become a little wiser in the ways of the world, no doubt, but essentially, I see the same engaged and engaging student we are delighted to count as one of our own today.”

Throughout her career as a journalist, Arsenault has received many awards, including several Geminis. She was named the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Journalist of the Year in 2005 and has also been honoured by the Radio and Television News Directors Association and the American Society of Professional Journalists.

Arsenault told the graduates they must embrace whatever comes their way, be unafraid to take risks and chances, at times, unfazed by potential consequence.

“Accept how little you actually know. The real learning will come in the most unlikely of ways, in mistakes and in surprises,” she said, noting her own mistakes have been some of her greatest tutors and companions.

In his citation, Huron Principal Stephen McClatchie praised Arsenault for her successful and dedicated career that has served Canadians.

“For Canadians from coast to coast, Adrienne Arsenault has given a face to significant events around the world. As a CBC correspondent for The National, whether based in Toronto or abroad, Ms. Arsenault has helped us understand conflict in the Middle East and Libya; she has been our guide to human tragedies such as the south Asian tsunami; and she has celebrated with us at the success of Canada’s athletes at the Olympics. From the horrors of war and the devastation of earthquakes to the joy of the royal wedding, Adrienne Arsenault has worked tirelessly and professionally to bring us the news,” he said.

“Ms. Arsenault is tough. She is courageous. She does not shy away from asking difficult questions. She probes and she connects. She is one of Canada’s great story-tellers,” he added.

Arsenault added chance will bring with it opportunity, lessons and heartbreak.

“It’s the comeuppance of chance that is a great gift. Stop and be open to them, and to the surprise of them. There are lessons you’ve learned here that will serve you in ways you can’t conceive,” she said, echoing Louis Pasteur in adding, “chance favours the prepared mind.”

“Now, for you, the best wish I could ever have for you, is that chance will favour you.”