Bruce Finlayson: On the 29th of May 2006, my wife Lyn, her Aunt Helen and I were in Montreal to attend the graduation ceremony at McGill University, where Helen was to receive her seventh honorary doctorate. Aunt Helen was very excited because she received her bachelor degree in nursing from McGill. We drove from Ottawa on a sunny spring day and arrived at the Sofitel in Montreal. We had adjoining rooms, one for Helen and one for Lyn and I. The hotel was the height of luxury and only a few blocks from McGill. Lyn and I spent the afternoon looking for the perfect evening bag, for Helen to use at the McGill Club formal dinner for all the recipients of Honorary Doctorates.
The next day we were picked up at the hotel by a taxicab which took us to the university. Once we worked our way through security we were escorted into the building where the robing took place. Here we were met by a whole group of nursing faculty. From attending other events like this I was not surprised by how much these women clearly admired Helen. They gave us seats and refreshments while we waited for the others university officials to show up. The room was filled with racks of colourful robes and various dignitaries and administrators of the university.
Time came for Helen to get ready, and a number of her colleagues from the university helped her into her robes and hat. Then we all walked out into the foyer. Helen signed in the big book, under the watchful eye of the Chancellor, and then it was photo time. A number of pictures were taken of Helen and the other recipient (who it turned out was the head of the Human Genome project), accompanied by various Deans and dignitaries of McGill University. Soon it was nearly time for the ceremony itself to begin. Those of us who were Helen’s guests left the building to walk down the road to the field where an enormous white tent had been erected for the ceremony. As we went down the stairs we saw a piper preparing to march the graduates into the tent.
Once we arrived at the tent and showed our tickets to the attendant, we were ushered to the very front row of the audience. After a short time we could hear the pipes in the distance, and it wasn’t long before the dignitaries came marching into the tent led by the piper. Once they had all climbed up onto the stage and taken their seats the ceremony began. The Dean of Nursing of McGill University gave a glowing introduction and summation of Helen’s career and her contribution to nursing. The Chancellor of the university escorted Helen to the podium where he presented her with her honorary Doctorate.
Once all the pomp and ceremony was over we walk back up to the robing building, where we visited with Helen’s other guests and the nursing faculty members before participating in another photo opportunity.