Paikin, who succeeded Aline Chretien in the post, was officially enshrined as chancellor in the morning convocation, and former College Boreal President Gisele Chretien received an honourary doctorate at the afternoon ceremony.
Laurentian University President Dominic Giroux said it was a special day not only for graduates, but also for the university.
“We're marking a big milestone at Laurentian University,” Giroux said. “By the end of today's two fall convocations, we will have issued more than 50,000 degrees.”
He said Paikin already holds an honorary doctorate from LU, and his TVO program The Agenda is highly regarded.
“Since 2006, he has moderated three federal election debates and two provincial election debates,” Giroux said. “He has written five books – one on hockey, four on politics.
“It is my pleasure and honour to declare the university's second chancellor, Mr. Steve Paikin.”
Laurentian Publishing owner Michael Atkins, who chairs LU's board of governors, made Paikin's appointment official. He said they were going through a list of potential chancellors when Paikin's name came up and he was immediately intrigued. Paikin's wife is from the area, and he visits Sudbury frequently, Atkins said, so he knows the North.
“And it was instantaneous for me, and for many others, that this man represented what we are all about,” Atkins said. “He's incredibly curious about the world and how it works, but most importantly, he brings a civility that I think this country really aspires to, and this institution really aspires to.”
Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault said they were lucky to have such a highly regarded person such as Paikin as their chancellor. It's another indication that LU is coming of age.
“The respect across the country for Laurentian University is growing,” Thibeault said. “And that's because of the great work they've been doing.”
In his remarks, Paikin told the crowd gathered at the Fraser Auditorium that Aline Chretien's husband, former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, never seems to know who he is, despite having met him several times.
“Even though I've interviewed him many times, he doesn't know me,” Paikin said. “Every time I see him, he says, 'Nice to meet you.' So obviously, I've made no impression on the man over the years.”
But that changed when he received his honourary doctorate from LU last year, where Chretien's wife, Aline, presided over the ceremony.
“This time (when he saw me), he walked right over to me and said, 'You know, it's because of my wife that you're a doctor,'” Paikin said, doing a good impression of the former PM's speaking voice. “That was a pretty memorable moment.”
In her remarks, Gisele Chretien said it was an honour to receive a doctorate from an institution that plays such an important role in Sudbury and Northern Ontario.
“When I received my degree in nursing, many moons ago, I never dreamt I would be standing here with you today,” Chretien said, who became emotional at several points during her speech.
Chretien, a graduate of Laurentian's nursing program, was also recognized for her role in helping establish College Boreal. She said her success comes from always trying to learn more, always trying to move beyond her comfort zone.
She's also learned the importance of staying focused on her goals, and not being distracted by people who are negative influences.
“Be the bigger person,” she urged graduates. “Always take the high road.”