AVP 2024 Graduation Address

By Matthew McGrath

To the graduating class of 2024, it is so wonderful to be able to join you and your loved ones on your graduation day as we celebrate your success and how we’ve grown together. Congratulations! 

Not long ago, we had a vision to grow something extraordinary; to remove barriers for continuous learners so they could access opportunities and achieve remarkable success.   

Our School of Continuing Studies was a seed planted in the fertile soil of possibility. Nine years ago, with our first graduating class, we stood on a small stage with just over 100 graduates, our hearts brimming with excitement. Little did we know that this seed would grow into a thriving community nourished by the passion and dedication of graduates like you.  

Fast forward to today, as we send off a graduating class of 2,000 diverse individuals. We’ve grown beyond our wildest dreams. Our School is no longer a vision, it’s a reality. A beautiful building, a hub of innovation, and a beacon for lifelong learners and employers looking for talent—a lush garden bearing fruit for so many. 

You are the high-potential talent this country needs and part of a rich, vibrant community that will sustain it. I have the sincere privilege of celebrating the accomplishments of all of you. 

But it’s not just about numbers. It’s about the power of community. You’ve chosen a different path in a world where divisions seem to widen. You’ve crossed borders, challenged norms, and embraced diversity. You’ve learned alongside classmates from other cultures, backgrounds, industries, and perspectives. That is truly inspiring.  

Your journey wasn’t easy. Balancing work, family, and studies—sometimes wondering if you could do it. Yet, you’ve thrived. You’ve built connections, shared insights, and grown as a community. Think about what that first small group helped grow—they prepared the ground for our School and planted the first seeds. Now, imagine what our larger community can achieve as we grow together.  

But what does it mean to grow together? As graduates, the next stage of your growth journey is just beginning, and it will thrive because of the top-tier education you’ve received and the many relationships you’ve already cultivated with each other and our industry partners.   

Your lifelong connection to our rich community will nourish continual growth in your career.  

Diversity is our strength. We celebrate the richness of cultures, the clash of ideas, and the beauty of individuality. Each of you brings a unique story—a different seed for our garden. It’s not just about what we have in common; it’s about the differences we share. That’s where actual growth happens.  

I’ve been seeking inspiration by following your stories, victories, setbacks, ‘aha’ moments— it fuels my optimism. But what warms my heart most? It’s how you lift each other. The mentor guides a peer, the students who share their experience to help others decide if this is the right path for them, and the team that collaborates across disciplines. At its best, lifelong learning isn’t a solitary pursuit; it’s a journey we take together, supporting each other along the way.   

My journey mirrors yours: formal education, self-discovery, and the joy of connecting with fellow travellers—always doing what I can to clear the path for those who follow. Including encouraging my colleagues and staff to pursue their own learning goals. I urge you to discover the joy of helping others thrive as they connect to their path, join our community, and grow their own.   

We’re all students, forever learning. Forever growing.  

As you step onto the next stage of your journey, remember this: You’re not alone. You’re part of a vibrant, global community—a force for change. What can we grow together? The answer lies within each of us.  

My ask? Keep growing individually and together. Strengthen our bonds.  

Return to York when you thirst for more knowledge or can quench someone else’s curiosity. Become mentors, speakers, facilitators, instructors, recruiters, and opportunity providers within our growing community. Enlarge your skill sets, give back, and elevate others to do so.   

As leaders, remember leadership is about helping others to grow and flourish.   

I use the garden analogy because a garden is a true community. It requires pollinators to spread pollen and fertilize other plants to grow, gardeners to carefully prune and add new seeds, and a healthy environment for a successful harvest.  

As a famed horticulturist, Gertrude Jekyll said, ” A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it takes industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust.”  

Our community of mentors, speakers, facilitators, instructors, and learners has taught us patience, attention to detail, industry, and thrift. Above all, we’ve grown to trust and support each other.   

Together, our growth potential is limitless. 

Together, we will continue developing a future full of shared laughter, dreams, and impact.   

Together, we will thrive and build a better world with bounty and continuous opportunity for all.   

Congratulations, class of 2024!