McCarney: Graduates must dare to "disturb the universe”

June 28, 2024

A group of Western Law students in their academic robes stand side by side with their hands making the Western W sign

Rosemary McCarney (LL.B. ’77), keynote speaker at the 2024 Western Law Convocation Awards Ceremony on June 21, has covered a lot of ground during her illustrious career. In the 50 years since she began her studies at Western Law, she has worked in over 100 countries and in every sector of the economy including roles as Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament and now as lecturer of foreign policy at Trinity College and Vice-Chair of the Western Law Alumni Advisory Council.

Rosemary McCarney

Rosemary McCarney

McCarney positioned her remarks to the class of 2024 through the lens of optimism and possibility thinking; a perspective honed in spite of working through great personal and professional challenges including in war zones, famine-stricken areas and refugee camps.

“I'm a committed believer that the long arc of life, it bends towards justice and humanity,” said McCarney. “It's way too easy to be pessimistic and even cynical. It's too easy to embrace fear and anger and disdain rather than do the hard work of finding common ground.”

While McCarney acknowledged the “seemingly intractable” challenges facing the generation entering the workforce, she also encouraged the graduates to believe they have the skills, abilities and training to lead the change so profoundly needed.

“You've chosen quite a period in world history to be graduating from university. It would be easy for you to say, this is a terrible time in world history to be embarking on this trip. But if it was easy and perfect, what role would there be for you?” said McCarney.

“You are now better equipped than just about any human being on the planet, to solve these things, to find the human, the regulatory and the technical solutions, and to challenge and hold accountable those who are threatening our lives and our freedoms.”

Throughout her address, she shared advice and encouragement in the form of six lessons she would offer to her younger self. Her lessons learned began with a call to dare to disturb the universe and to believe that imperfect institutions can be improved through bold choices and the support of allies. She further called graduates to understand and be aware of power, hold contradictory thoughts and ideas at once, cross borders to learn from others, remain optimistic, and to choose partners well.  

Konner Fung-Kee-Fung

Konner Fung-Kee-Fung

Class valedictorian Konner Fung-Kee-Fung (JD / MBA ’24) also took the stage at ceremony to reflect on the accomplishments of his peers.

He acknowledged that while the goals, motivations and future paths of his class are vastly different they are all united in their shared success of having preserved through law school amidst an array of personal and academic challenges.

“What unites us is not a great shared purpose or a common value set. It's simpler, more modest, and perhaps annoyingly obvious. What we all have in common is that this was really hard,” said Fung-Kee-Fung.

“What we're here to recognize is that each of us persisted, we made it here to today. Through a series of little choices, to just do the best you could on that day, we ended up here.”

Fung-Kee-Fung also reflected on the importance of community support before concluding his address with encouragement for the road ahead.

“Having done one hard thing, I hope future challenges appear a lot less daunting. After all the time and effort and emotional energy that went into this, we should now be equipped not just with a bit more legal knowledge, but with a lot more self-awareness and belief,” said Fung-Kee-Fung.

Erika Chamberlain

Erika Chamberlain

“I hope we can continue to rely on each other as our careers progress wherever that may be. If your own reserves are ever insufficient, somebody here will help. We know this stuff because it's happened already, it happened here.”

After the 2024 student award recipients crossed the stage, Dean and Professor Erika Chamberlain shared closing remarks in her final address as dean.

“It's been an absolute privilege for me to lead this law school over the last seven plus years, through some difficult but also some very rewarding circumstances. One of the reasons I love being a professor and dean is because I get to work with such talented and enthusiastic students,” said Chamberlain. 

“And in doing that, to have some influence over the future of the profession. I know that the profession will thrive with this new group of Western law graduates in it and I'm really glad to have shared this journey with you.”

A list of awards presented at the ceremony can be found below.

Gold Medalist

A.T. Little Scholarship

Emily Alice Corinne Vaillancourt

JD Program Awards

A.B. Siskind Scholarship

Emily Alice Corinne Vaillancourt

Adam Fanaki Memorial Award in Competition Law

Samantha Kay Courtney

Ailbe C. Flynn LLB ‘97 Memorial Scholarship in Intellectual Property

Natalie Valentina Workewych

Baker & McKenzie Award in International Business Transactions

Samantha Kay Courtney

Bernard and Bessie Wolf Scholarship

Samuel Wei Ming Gan

Brad Hodgson Civil Litigation Award

Zoe Gabriella Trister

C.C.H. Canadian Limited Prize

Alexander David Joel Winter

Colin D. Leitch Award

Samuel Carey Frankie

David L. Johnston Prize in Securities Regulation

Meaghan Paige Kenley

Diana Majury-Cheryl Waldrum Award

Zuha Ali Khan

Eric K. Gillespie Professional Corporation Writing Scholarship

Razan Mohamed

Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP Award in Labour and Employment Law

Joshua Daniel Vitella

Francis Marie Clark Award in Law

Elaine Y S Yang

Granger Award in Family Law

Meaghan Paige Kenley

Harte Law Award

Namya Tandon





J.S.D. Tory Writing Prize

Nikisha Supria Thapar

Nigel Eyre Olesen

Jacob Michael Van Boekel

Elizabeth Maryanne Whelan

Janet Stewart Prize in Immigration and Refugee Law

Adam Jeffrey Watters

Joyce Thomas Memorial Award

Razan Mohamed

Law Society of Upper Canada Prize

Emily Alice Corinne Vaillancourt

Joshua Daniel Vitella

Nigel Eyre Olesen

Thidas Uthsara Senanayaka

Holly Maryann Allen

Meaghan Paige Kenley

Brieanna Miklaucic

Adam Jeffrey Watters

Adelaide Joyce Nancy Naprawa

Lindsay May Young

Natalie Valentina Workewych

Mary Louise Diemert

Rachel Makkar

Justine Alexis Dryburgh

Molly Carmen McMahon

Lorenzo Di Cecco Memorial Award in Criminal Law

Lindsay May Young

Peter Barton Award in Civil Procedure

Thidas Uthsara Senanayaka

Rosen Sunshine LLP Award in Health Law

Ronald Michael Clancy

Sherrard Kuzz LLP Labour & Employment Law Achievement Award

Nicole Roberta Voskuil

Stanley C. Tessis Memorial Award

Sofia D’Amico-Frigerio

Torys LLP Award in Business Law

Braeden Edward DeDecker

Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers Award

Joshua Daniel Vitella