University convocation is a day to celebrate after long nights buried in the books, with family to cheer you on and officially send you on to another chapter in your life.
But for some, it can mean returning to a place you’ve never left.
That was the case for Merlis Belsher Wednesday as TCU Place hosted the University of Saskatchewan’s spring convocation ceremony.
Known as an accoutant, lawyer, entreprenuer and philanthropist, Belsher was recognized with an honourary doctorate of laws.
He spoke to graduates at the ceremony and passed along some advice he’s gathered over many decades.
“As you journey through the rest of your life, remember those who helped you and help them in return,” he said. “It has been one of the most fufilling aspects of my journey to be able to give back, and especially to our university.”
Giving back hasn’t been a problem for Belsher.
In 2016, he made the largest single donation in U of S history when he gifted his alma mater $12.25 million to help fund a multi-purpose facility to replace the aging Rutherford Rink.
The new Merlis Belsher Place is expected to open in the fall.
Belsher’s generosity has extended across the province. He’s also the namesake of the Merlis Belsher Heritage Centre at the University of Regina’s Luther College, after donating $2.5 million to help the school refurbish its gym.
He said he did it to honour his family’s past.
“I am the product of parents and grandparents who were pionerrs in southwestern Saskatchewan in the 1900s.”
Belsher was born in the small town of McCord, a hamlet southwest of Assiniboia. The community is actually named after Richard McCord, Belsher’s grandfather.
He said conditions were tough, with no electricity and no telephone. He said his family life gave him the drive to succeed and he hoped to pass a similar determination on to the students he spoke to Wednesday.
“In whatever you choose as a career, ongoing learning and further study will be necessary,” Belsher said. “I urge that you continue to broaden your learning, including professional development, such that you have transferrable knowledge and skills,”
“It is your generation that we expect to lead the way for the future.”