As grad speeches go, Bob Lenarduzzi’s was short but sweet, an homage to his parents whose wish was fulfilled Wednesday, after their passing.
The Canadian sports icon — long prominent in the development of soccer in the country — got a little emotional as he received an honorary degree in law from TRU.
“It actually presented me with an opportunity to honour a commitment made many years before you were born,” Lenarduzzi told assembled students in sciences, trades and technology at the Tournament Capital Centre.
Lenarduzzi’s parents emigrated to Canada in the early 1950s and arrived, much like countless other immigrants, having to start all over and learn a new language. It wasn’t easy but one of their primary reasons was to give their kids a better education, he explained.
Life took the young soccer player down a different road, though, starting with a chance to try out for a team in Reading, England, when he was just 14 years old.
The rest is Canadian soccer history. The young Lenarduzzi went on to represent Canada 47 times on the field, including at the 1984 Olympic Games and the 1986 FIFA World Cup. He was twice named the Canadian Soccer League’s coach of the year among many other accomplishments. His career extended well beyond soccer prowess, though, and included the spirit, determination and leadership TRU hopes to inspire in students.
Yet at age 14, Lenarduzzi’s dream didn’t fit with his parent’s plans for their children. Wednesday’s honour certainly did.
“I’ve fulfilled my end of the bargain,” he said. “And in a rather unorthodox way, I got it done.”
Lenarduzzi said he was passionate about soccer at a time when there was no professional league in North America. A key player over the years, first with the Vancouver Whitecaps and later with the Vancouver 86ers, he helped carve a place internationally for Canadian players. He "got that done," too.
“It’s wonderful to look out … at all of you now embracing this day,” he continued. “If you’re passionate, you’ll find success.”
The morning ceremony kicked off three days involving five commencement ceremonies got underway at the Tournament Capital Centre.
TRU President Alan Shaver offered graduates a definition of the meaning of university: “The development of new knowledge and understanding for the benefit of people.”
That knowledge is a tremendous tool and serves the individual in enabling the development of a great life, he said.
What distinguishes university grads today is the pace of change in the world; they must embrace lifelong learning. He stressed the importance of tolerance, respect and inclusion of diversity as they make their way.
“Use the power of university to make the world a better place.”