Here's a story about an X-Ring that was a long time coming. It wasn't lost; it just took a long time to find me.
I left school as a 14-year-old, when my mother died in 1935, and spent the next four years working in the lumber woods. The outbreak of war in September 1939 found me enlisting in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders where I served until I was wounded during the invasion of France in 1944.
During the period of my convalescence in the Military Hospital at Debert I was visited often by Truro members of the Canadian Legion, one member of which convinced me to return to school so that I might continue on to university. I heeded his advice and graduated from StFX in 1951 with a BComm (magna cum laude).
If you look back to those days, you'll find the X-Ring ceremony and wearing of X-Rings did not have the glamour it does today. This, plus the fact that I was married, had a family of two boys by the time I graduated, and didn't have any spare cash (the X-Ring cost about $20 in 1951!), meant I left my beloved Alma Mater without one of its most treasured gifts.
But wait, the story hasn't ended! In April 2001 I was driving home from Florida with my eldest son, Rick, (also a StFX grad), when I mentioned to him that I was going to finally buy my X-Ring. Nothing more was said about it, but when I went to order, The Ring, I thought it funny that a deposit wasn't asked for by Cameron's Jewelry.
I went to pick up my ring the Friday before Father's Day. As I entered Cameron's and said I was there to pick up my ring, imagine my surprise when the young lady asked all the staff to gather around as she ceremoniously presented me with my ring and a Father's Day card signed by my five sons. My sons Rick, Dave, Drew, Bob and Greg had bought my X-Ring and had it presented to me. 50 years after I graduated!
Hail and Health,
You and I have shared stories in the past on the power of the X-Ring. This is another one. Like all friends of Robert Hynes '68, I was shocked at his untimely death. His daughter Erin is now a student at StFX. The attached words are taken (Editor's note: with permission) from Erin's eulogy in tribute to her father.
- John Paul Murchland
"My dad always wanted so much for me and taught me the importance of an education. He pushed so hard for me to attend St. Francis Xavier University - the very university he graduated from.
After much discussion I decided to go - but let my dad know that I was going to hate every moment of it. I would never admit to him that I absolutely loved it or had the chance to thank him as it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I am deeply saddened my dad won't be there to see me receive my X-Ring but I am going to make him a part of it by sizing and wearing his X-Ring. I will have my initials engraved right below his and I know that ring will mean more to me than a brand new one ever could.
It's just like him to leave me with more motivation than ever to graduate!"
Dear John Paul,
I was very touched by the story you shared regarding my father's antics at StFX. It was very important to him that I attend StFX because I think he wanted me to have the same opportunities for growth both academically and emotionally that one can only find in a close knit university setting. It has been a difficult decision to return to X, leaving both my mother and close friends behind, however, when I looked deep within myself I knew that the decision to return was right for me. My mom is keeping the ring in safe keeping and I know when I finally get to put it on - I will be keeping a part of my father with me forever. Beyond that - I will look to that ring to see an emotional and academic strength that my father always wanted for me. I would be honoured if the story was used by alumni.
I am a teacher in Woodbridge, Ontario. Shortly after the Maclean's magazine university rankings came out last year, I was telling my grade 11 class all about StFX, the tradition of the X-Ring and the meaning of a StFX University education. I passed my X-Ring around the classroom and while the students took turns trying it on, they asked me questions. I told them about the X-Ring ceremony, how students count down the days until they get their own ring, the rules for getting one, and how it has become so popular.
A female student raised her hand and said that her mother had found an X-Ring a few years ago and that she still had it sitting at home.
I explained to her and the class that people associated with the university know how much a lost ring means to the owner and will attempt to find that person to give it back. I showed them how someone could use the graduation date and the engraving on the inside to help locate the owner. I also talked about AlumniNews and how it has a section devoted to lost and found X-Rings. When I would be home for Christmas, I told them, I would go to the Alumni Office where people would most likely be able to find the rightful owner. The class thought this was pretty cool.
A couple of days later, the student brought the X-Ring in. It was from the 1976 graduating class, with the initials R.V.B., B.Sc.N inscribed on it. She said her mother had found it on the bus.
Having returned to Antigonish for Christmas, I walked into Alumni House and in ten minutes Noreen Nunn and another lady there were able to locate the owner using the 1976 yearbook and convocation ceremony program. A short phone call later, I was talking to Joseph Spee and discovered that he and his wife (formerly Ria Van Berkel '76) lived just a 15-minute drive away from me in Toronto. Ria, not in when I called, had lost her X-Ring while out for a walk in Bayview Village a few years ago.
When I got back to Toronto on January 4, I phoned the Spee family and made arrangements to meet later that day. We had a great conversation, finding out that I knew many of her relatives as she was also from Antigonish. We talked about the discovery of her lost ring and reminisced about X and Antigonish. Ria was very excited and thankful to the student and myself for caring so much to take the time to get her ring back to her.
During our conversation she said she had given up hope of finding it, yet she held onto a hope for divine intervention.. Through the interplay of events, this finally did happen.
Thank you to AlumniNews for other success stories of X-Rings being returned, so that myself and other X alumni know that people do take the time to locate each other.
- Brian MacIsaac '91
Like many students last fall, I looked forward with great anticipation to the day I would receive my X-Ring. As someone with many family ties to the university, I had seen the ring worn proudly at family functions my whole life, and I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that came along with wearing it.
In early February, the ring went missing. At first I assumed it had fallen behind my desk, or was buried under a stack of books. Finding the ring was not going to be as simple as that; over the next three months I searched endlessly for the ring and thought continually about its possible whereabouts. Despite the help of friends and family, and my grandmother's continued prayers to St. Anthony,
I resigned myself to the fact that the ring would probably not be found in time for Convocation. Unfortunately, I was right.
In mid-August, a good friend of mine and fellow Celtic Society enthusiast called to invite me to Antigonish. I was told that the AlumniNews wished to speak with both of us for an upcoming article on the Gaelic Scholarship fund and the Celtic Society. As one of the recipients for this year's scholarship I was more than willing to share some of my experiences.
So I arrived back in Antigonish one day in August. Ready for our lunchtime interview we met and proceeded to a local restaurant where I was told we were to meet with a representative of your magazine. Entering the building, I saw a dozen friends of mine gathered around a table. I was quickly handed a small blue box, not unlike that which my own X-Ring came in, and told that instead of an interview about scholarships, this was to be day for X-Rings!
Unbeknownst to me, a move had been on since mid-June to raise enough money to replace my lost ring! Twenty people, friends spanning my four years at X, contributed more than $400 to replace the ring. Contributions had been sent in from as far away as British Columbia and letters were written by several contributors. That night all those who could be in Antigonish for the event went out and a good time was had by all.
The ring means more to me now than the original ever could have. To be able to earn an X-ring through scholarly endeavour is a wonderful experience; to be able to earn it again, through friendship, is a rare privilege and one for which I consider myself exceedingly fortunate. The event testifies to the unity of the Xaverian spirit and the generosity of its nature.
- Shamus MacDonald '02
It's December 4, 2002, just 24 hours since over 1,000 grads received their (fully earned and highly anticipated) X-Rings, which also marks the beginning of the university's 150th anniversary celebrations and #1 ranking in Maclean's magazine! After nearly an hour of speeches, prayers and songs we finally made our way to the front of the cathedral where we received our treasures; a sparkling gold-plated ring with the famous black X staring up at us, and personalized engravings on the underside. Beautiful! As my neighbour remarked we just couldn't put them on our fingers fast enough! Back in September, each X-Ring candidate was told to order, size and pay for their ring so that Cameron's Jewelers could get a head start on the hundreds of rings to be made.
This is where my story differs from most recipients. As many university students may appreciate and sympathize with, my bank account was now in a state of constant decline as my summer job had ended months ago. I was of course, worried about where the money for my next seven months worth of groceries would come from, let alone how I was going to pay for a $500 ring! So sadly, I opted out. My classmates, roommates and friends all filled me in on their personal day to day dramas and excitement with regards to their ring situation, so although I still felt somewhat involved, I knew I wouldn't be there on the actual day of the ever-anticipated X-Ring ceremony.
Unbeknownst to me, just two weeks before the ceremony, my mom had done a garden consult for two X-grads, Erin and Joe Bradford, back at home in Calgary, who had later gone on to do further education in Montreal, but never forgot their fond memories of Antigonish. Mom had spotted their rings almost immediately (as her eye had been trained over the years since I'd started here) and told them I was graduating from X this year. The couple was immediately thrilled and spoke favourably of their time out on the East Coast. They told my mom they'd never forget it, especially their X-Ring ceremony! They inquired as to whether I was getting a ring, and my mom told them, no, as it just wasn't in the budget this year.
A week later, after only having met that couple briefly for a one-hour consult, Mr. Bradford called up my mom and told her he had contacted Cameron's Jewelers and had asked if a ring could be made late by special order for me.
Aloma, the woman in charge, was more than thrilled to help out and told me that she loves doing what she can to help in this sort of situation. Mr. Bradford also offered to pay for half of the ring, if my mom could cover the other half, my only contribution would be to go get myself sized! An hour later, it was all sorted out! The woman at Cameron's decided to lend me an old ring from 1980, which she had in the back of the shop, so that I could participate in the ceremony. Afterwards I was to go back to the shop to return the old ring and get my new one.
After returning home that day and telling my husband and roommates the story, I was reminded of a movie we had just watched a week prior called. Pay it Forward. The concept is that people help others in any way they can, in hope that maybe some day that person will do the same for someone else.
How was I to thank the couple who made my experience here at X that much more meaningful and memorable? This amazing and spontaneous act of generosity on behalf of the Bradfords was hugely appreciated, and could not go unnoticed. A friend of mine suggested I write to the Alumni News, so that their generosity could be read by all Xaverians, so this is what Ive done.
This is proof of just how pervasive X-spirit really is, and the extent to which X-Alumni can go to help out another. Thank-you both for your unexpected support and warmth! My ring means all the more to me now that I have truly experienced the essence of what this university is made of, and prides itself on.
Whenever I wear my ring, I will remember this story and think of the two of you! Cheers, from a very grateful and happy Xaverian!