President's Corner

Presentations from Désirée McGraw

President Désirée McGraw started her time at Pearson College UWC with three primary objectives to guide the collective work as Pearson College builds its vision for the next 40 years

"In my capacity as Chief Champion of Pearson College, I am making it my mission to ensure potential students, prospective donors, government sponsors and our friends and supporters know about the kind of educational and life experiences we are providing here in Pedder Bay and the impact our alumni are having around the world." — Désirée McGraw, at Pearson College Founders' Celebration, Aug. 9, 2015 

 21 May 2017

 Pearson College UWC Village Gathering – Remarks by Désirée McGraw


The final Village Gathering of the academic year - our last evening together – is not really a time to take stock as our minds and hearts are too full of emotions that range from:

·        Relief that exams are over

·        Euphoria that this year can be marked as “mission completed”

·        Sadness that we will never again all be together in quite the same way;

·        Anticipation – and some trepidation – of things to come; and, for many,

·        Happiness of being reunited with family and loved ones.


What a weekend!  You – and we – have all packed so much activity into these last few days.  

·        The amazingly choreographed bay jumps

·        The House BBQs

·        The Friday night dance party

·        Saturday morning waterfront flotilla

·        Envelope ceremony on D Lawn

·        The transition circle

·        This morning’s Campus Clean Up - This is part of the Pearson spirit and the ultimate experience in team-building.


There is lots more to look forward to this evening, including the farewell BBQ and the Grand Finale Musical Café celebrating the amazing PC 42-43 relationship. Ali promises that it will be a show that we'll remember 10 years from now!


As you know, the dining hall will be open through the night as students depart the campus in waves.


Even as we part, we are welcoming new members to the UWC Community. I want to welcome new Head of UWC Thailand Jason McBride and his family (wife, Sam; daughters Paige and Sienna) who come to us from Vancouver.  You’ve come to Pearson on a weekend where the community has come together in a remarkable way that truly reflects the UWC ethos.


I would like to take the opportunity to recognize the various people that make up our community.


First, I invite you to join me in saluting our devoted and professional faculty and staff.


At the core, is a tireless group of individuals who keep this magnificent machine working so beautifully. 

·        Administration, Finance, HR, Admissions, Reception

·        Operations, IT, cleaning, kitchen staff, maintenance - you deserve special applause for the completion of the Japan House renovations, not to mention coping with this year’s unusual snowfall

·        Alumni Relations which, starting now, is Year 42’s direct line to Pearson.  


Where to start…


You are, quite simply, exceptional.

Throughout the year you not only impart you knowledge, you nourish students’ intellectual curiosity – encouraging and challenging each student to reach their full potential.


I also know how very proud you are of all our students, not only on this special day, but every day!


Residents & Houseparents:


Who hasn’t played pirates or ball with the campus kids? (with mine being the noisiest!)


Who hasn’t experienced Anamaria’s ginger tea –our greatest ally against the common cold that often tries to bring our campus down.  


Who hasn’t enjoyed a wonderful meal or KULE meeting in the warmth and comfort of Lilian and Geoffrey’s home?


Who hasn’t stayed up too late or woken up too early just to be at Calgary House   for early morning crepes and coffee – and organic conversations with Nazim, Karena, and now Kerem?


Who hasn’t experienced the oasis of calm that the MCL dayroom provides – courtesy of China, Raphael and Mina’s family spirit of mindfulness?

Who hasn’t experienced Jamaal’s contagious enthusiasm for Goldenshoe – and the amazing House and community spirit it generates?


Who hasn’t  witnessed East House’s transformation into a Haunted House at Hallowe’en?


We are thrilled to welcome Guy and Christine and Valérie as the new houseparents and housebuddy team at Japan House.


Residents and houseparents are often the first port of call for students during difficult times. And who hasn’t experienced the love and support from houseparents in times of need?


On behalf of the entire Pearson Community, I want to say to each of you THANK YOU :

·        for your tireless devotion to our students

·        for opening your hearts and homes, and in many cases, your ovens to our equally amazing students. 

And now, Dear students, a tribute to you – the reason we are all here.


You have been simply terrific this year. As you know, this is not your typical school. What makes this place so rich is the energy, enthusiasm and collaborative spirit that I see every day, not just your academic, service and outdoor activities but also in the initiatives the students lead. You have greatly enriched the learning environment for not only for your peers, but for all of us.


Congratulations to Year 43 for successfully completing your exams and your first year at Pearson! I hope that it was everything that you dreamed it would be – and then some.

When you return on Monday 28 August, you will be campus leaders with a special responsibility to mentor your first years (Year 44) during a very special year for Pearson College.

As you know,
we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to our inspiration and namesake, Lester B. Pearson. Lots of exciting events are being planned for next year.   

You have earned your holiday. Enjoy your families, your friends at home and give them the chance to enjoy you.  Pursue your home service and other projects with enthusiasm and creativity.  Above all, come back to Pearson rested and re-charged!

Year 42, you will always be special to me because we started our Pearson journey together. And what a journey it has been.

You arrived from all points of the compass, while I moved 3,000 miles from our home in Montreal to join you on the majestic and magical Pearson campus on Pedder Bay.

You have all demonstrated courage – simply by choosing to come here from far and wide. Thank you for sharing these two pivotal years of your life with us. I hope that in return your lives have been rewarded with an extraordinary experience, which will guide you for the rest of your lives in all that you do. I always say, Pearson College transforms the lives that go on to transform the world.


Over the past two years, you have nurtured the seeds of UWC values which have been carefully planted by teachers, classmates, residents, host families and other volunteers, living and learning and laughing more intensely, diversely and often uncomfortably than you ever have before.


Today, you stand on the threshold of the rest of your life. Your UWC Journey is just beginning, with decades ahead of you to grow into the unique human being you are destined to become. Your original dream is still a work in progress and hopefully it is now even more deeply-rooted in your heart and you feel you can now count on the people in this room – together with sixty thousand other UWCers – who believe we can build a more peaceful and sustainable world, to support you in your quest.



As of tomorrow, you are Pearson College UWC Alumni, joining the ranks of the best ambassadors and loyal supporters of the College and its ideals.   

Regardless of the programs you choose to study, the profession or the role you choose to carry out in your family, your community, your workplace, regardless of the place on this planet you call home, you will forever be a member of this family, a peace-builder and changemaker.


I want you to know that this campus, and this community will always be home. As alumni numbers grow, so does the strength of the Pearson and UWC community.

 I hope you will always hold this campus and its residents close to your heart and consider it a place that forever welcomes you with open arms and eagerness to hear your story.

[ I encourage you to stay in touch with us at Pearson and with the network of wonderful friends from around the world. I encourage you to follow our news and contribute your own updates.  Come back to visit when you can – you are welcome anytime – with two exceptions next year as a courtesy to your first years: not before Canadian Thanksgiving (so they can establish their own rhythm) and not when classes end and exams begin (so they can study). We have some exciting plans underway to welcome you back and engage you in many meaningful ways. Stay tuned!]

In conclusion: Whatever your chosen path, I know that you will always carry in your hearts and minds the ideals and mission of Pearson College and UWC.

Your Pearson experience has prepared you to embrace one of the core values of the College: “the importance of acting on your beliefs and taking a lead role in what you do as well as what you say.”

Always bear in mind one of Lester B. Pearson’s favorite aphorisms: It is not within our power to command success. But we can do more. We can earn it.

I wish you, in the best nautical tradition appropriate for our beloved Pedder Bay: Fair winds and following seas.



May 19, 2016
Désirée McGraw speaks at the farewell Village Meeting on campus  
Désirée McGraw's remarks to students, faculty, staff and residents for the final Village Meeting — May 19, 2016


April 19, 2016
Désirée McGraw speaks at the Ottawa Peace Talks 
Désirée McGraw's Speech at Ottawa Peace Talks — April 19, 2016
VIDEO: See the recorded Ottawa Peace Talks here — April 19, 2016


March 16, 2016
Désirée McGraw speaks at the March luncheon of the Canadian International Council of Victoria
Désirée McGraw's Remarks to CIC Victoria — March 16, 2016


March 5, 2016
Désirée McGraw speaks at One World Reception for patrons, donors, alumni and friends
SPEECH: Désirée McGraw's Remarks to Pearson's patrons, donors, alumni and friends (English)
SPEECH: Désirée McGraw's Remarks to Pearson's patrons, donors, alumni and friends (French)


Jan. 27, 2016
Désirée McGraw gives a tribute to Maurice F. Strong at his celebration of life
A Celebration of the Life of Maurice F. Strong — Jan. 27, 2016
Hommage à la vie de Maurice F. Strong — Jan. 27, 2016
VIDEO: Désirée McGraw gives remarks at the memorial held in Ottawa (speech at 35:55)

Dec. 1, 2015

Désirée McGraw joins international environmental lawyer Johannah Bernstein to present an overview of the Paris climate negotiations for International Affairs
VIDEO: Livestream event of "The Precarious Road to Paris" — Dec. 1, 2015

Aug. 31, 2015

Désirée McGraw welcomes new and returning students to Pearson College
SPEECH: Opening Assembly Remarks to the New Students — Aug. 31, 2015

August 9, 2015
Désirée McGraw welcomes alumni from the last 40 years back to campus
SPEECH: Founder's Celebration Presentation — Aug. 9, 2015

April 20, 2015
Désirée McGraw is introduced as Pearson College's President and Head of College
SPEECH: Opening Remarks — April 20, 2015
VIDEO: See the announcement and standing ovation for the appointment