Ceremonial Convocation Suite

VIU’s Ceremonial Convocation Suite was created by world-renowned artist Arthur Vickers, OBC, DFA, and given to the University in May 2015 by Coast Capital Savings to support the two institutions’ common goal of inspiring and celebrating the generations of VIU students, graduates and alumni. The suite also reflects a shared value of Coast Capital Savings and VIU – the belief in the power of education to change peoples’ lives and build strong, vibrant communities. There are three distinct pieces in the Ceremonial Convocation Suite: the Chancellor’s Chair, The Keeper of Wisdom and Knowledge; the President and Vice-Chancellor’s Chair, The Keeper of Knowledge; and the Ceremonial Parchment Bentcorner Box (Huupukwanum), where the parchments are held before being bestowed upon the University’s graduates.  

With generous support from Coast Capital Savings, Vickers spent thousands of hours at VIU dreaming his plans for the suite. Each of the suite’s 22 original images, etched in 24-karat gold leaf, were inspired by the many hours Vickers spent at VIU, sitting in different classrooms, in the gardens, in the library and many other locations around campus, soaking in the atmosphere and energy around him.

Carved out of old-growth cedar, the suite is an integral part of the University’s Convocation ceremony. The Chancellor and President and Vice-Chancellor reside in the two chairs during the ceremony, surrounded by the University’s faculty and graduates. During the ceremony, each graduate, after receiving their parchment, is invited to touch the lid of the Ceremonial Parchment Bentborner Box, marking the end of their VIU education and the beginning of the next chapter of their lives. Through this tradition they leave their imprint on the wood, symbolizing the impact and impression they will leave on VIU and weaving their stories together with those of all the graduates who came before them and all who will come after them.

When the pieces are not in use at VIU’s Convocation ceremonies, they are on public display at the University’s Nanaimo campus in the Welcome Centre (Building 300). The suite was first unveiled at VIU’s June 2015 Convocation ceremony. Here are the perspectives of two alumni who were among the first to view the suite, on what it meant to them to have this work of art woven into the traditions of their graduation ceremony:

Gina Mowatt, Bachelor of Arts in First Nations Studies graduate:

“Seeing the Ceremonial Suite made me feel proud as an Indigenous student – to have us represented in such a central way during the ceremony. I think it’s pretty meaningful that VIU is Indigenizing by having these pieces as part of Convocation. Indigenous art is more than just a piece of carved wood. Our artists bring our ancestors through them to help them create their work and so the pieces of art are alive. They also represent relationships and they are a part of commemorating events that happen. Having the suite at the ceremony made an impact on me – I really felt that I became part of that relationship with our ancestors and also with my fellow graduates when I touched the wood of the bent corner box. It made the ceremony a lot more comfortable for me and I was so much happier to be there.”

George Anderson, Bachelor of Arts, Major in Criminology graduate:

“I feel this suite tells a beautiful story about our continued journey as part of the VIU community. VIU is an institution that promotes the importance of acknowledging the members of our community and using its special status as a university to repair harms and attempt to bring about dialogue on issues within our community. This new tradition within Convocation symbolizes the commitment this institution has to its students and the connection we as students will forever have with Vancouver Island University, the community and the world around us. It’s a wonderful representation of how this University empowers its students and will continue to do so even after they have graduated.”