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New and old traditions mark end of school year

First UCalgaryStrong Festival shines light on strength and resiliency
April 16, 2015

Wednesday brought a mix of festivities and personal reflection to the University of Calgary. On the last day of classes, students found ways to reward themselves after a year of hard work. At the same time, the day provided an opportunity for people to reflect on the tragic events of April 15, 2014 and the ways our community can respond in a healthy, caring way.

The first-ever UCalgaryStrong Festival kicked off — an event to foster strength, resiliency and community. The festival is intended to become an annual event and is an addition to the longstanding traditions of Bermuda Shorts Day and ucalgarycares BSD Day of Service.

The festival saw crowds of students, faculty and staff come out for a day of fun activities in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium, while the hashtag #ucalgarystrong trended nationally on social media.

“It was a wonderful day; many campus community members as well as people from across the city participated throughout the day,” said Susan Barker, vice-provost (student experience). “There was a true sense of celebration, reflection and support that was great to see.”

The UCalgaryStrong Festival offered something for everyone. On the Community Café main stage, a steady stream of performances entertained music and theatre lovers. Artists ranged from local acts such as Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk and hoop dancer Jessica McMann to talented ensembles from the university’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.

More than 50 exhibitors showed off their creative wares including several artisans from the University of Calgary and the Alberta College of Art and Design.

A contemplative labyrinth provided a space for quiet reflection. The Strength Wall community art project, designed to become a living legacy piece for the festival, came to life through creative visual and written expressions.

Outdoors near The Spire, the Student Rhythms Drum Circle pounded on their drums and offered onlookers a chance to participate. Close by, the Green Fools Theatre stilt walkers and tight-rope troupe entertained passersby with gravity-defying tricks. Throughout the afternoon, teams raced around campus as part of a geocaching adventure.

Leading up to the UCalgaryStrong Festival, alumni were encouraged to engage in the #UCalgaryAlumniVoices campaign. Alumni shared their stories and provided insight into “What Makes You Strong?” Common themes included having a support system, staying physically active, enriching the mind with education and art, and most notably, connecting with other human beings personally and professionally. View some of the expressions on #UCalgaryAlumniVoices and share your voice in the future.

The UCalgaryStrong Festival is part of a larger initiative to support wellness, leadership and resiliency on campus and made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor. Building on this year’s energetic and successful event, organizers are already looking ahead to next year. Share your feedback, comments, and suggestions on the evaluation survey by 11 a.m. Thursday, April 16. 

Reflecting on the Brentwood tragedy

A private gathering for family, friends and special guests provided an opportunity to commemorate the lives of students Lawrence Hong, Joshua Hunter, Kaiti Perras, Zackariah Rathwell and Jordan Segura on the one-year anniversary of their tragic deaths.

Speaking at the gathering, President Elizabeth Cannon reflected on the resilience that the university has worked hard to foster in our community.

“Our university was deeply touched by the tragic events involving these young people who were poised to begin new journeys of promise and hope,” Cannon said. “We are profoundly reminded of how important it is to be a thoughtful community — a caring university family — that shows how much we value every one of our members, every day.”

An online forum for condolences is available for those looking for ways to engage and share their thoughts in memory of those lost. Visitors can also read expressions of sympathy that were offered last year. The site will be open for comments until the end of day Friday, April 17.

University of Calgary scholarship endowments have been established in perpetuity to honour the memory of Lawrence Hong, Joshua Hunter and Jordan Segura. The first of these awards will be offered in the 2015-2016 academic year. For more information or to donate, community members are invited to visit

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