Campus Life

Dr. Michelle Hogue steps into the role of chief marshal

Outgoing Chief Marshal Dr. Noëlla Piquette has a few words of advice for Dr. Michelle Hogue (MEd ’04) as she takes over the role — to take a moment to fully absorb the pride and love that emanates from family and friends seated in the audience during convocation ceremonies.

Piquette has served as the University of Lethbridge chief marshal since 2019, a role she has thoroughly enjoyed.

Dr. Michelle Hogue, holding the mace, is the U of L's new chief marshal, taking over for Dr. Noëlla Piquette. The mace is cast in bronze and was first used in 1988.

“It’s just such a privileged and esteemed position and I am really proud to have served the last few years and really grateful for the support that I received, not only from faculty members and students — those very cheerful students on convocation day — but also the administrative team and all of the professors. It really was a fantastic time,” says Piquette.

The chief marshal’s most visible job is to carry the eight-kilogram mace while leading the academic procession and recession during convocation ceremonies and it’s a role that Hogue is eager to assume.

“I love celebrating everyone’s success and as a University, I think we do that really well,” Hogue says. “It’s a real honour to be asked to lead convocation. I just hope I don’t drop the mace.”

Behind the scenes, the chief marshal serves as the chair of the convocation committee, where decisions are made about the degree-award documents and the order of proceedings, along with many other details. For the past year, that has meant shifting convocation to a virtual platform because of the pandemic. The chief marshal also leads a team of seven other marshals.

“One of the things that surprised me with this role is to assist with recruiting and securing other marshals, for example, platform marshals to serve in every convocation ceremony, to provide rehearsal and, on the day of convocation, to be the contact point for the questions coming from marshals, students and the convocation team,” says Piquette. “Because we have so many convocation ceremonies, it really is an organizational task to keep track of who is part of what ceremony and then to have almost a floating list of people who can step in at the last minute should something happen.”

For Piquette, the moments before the procession starts are magical. University Hall is abuzz with happy soon-to-be graduates. Then come the swelling sounds of the bagpipes and everyone stands at attention ready for the walk up the hill. Her favourite vantage point is at the back of platform where she can see the students lining up to come on stage and looking at all of the families and seeing their faces light up. Piquette knows thousands of hours have been put into making sure it all happens on cue.

“The dedicated convocation team is the backbone for the coordination and success of our ceremonies, they are the magic that makes it all work,” says Piquette. “I’m so pleased I was able to work alongside them for the last few years. Heather Fudge does an incredible job of coordinating convocation and she makes my job as chief marshal so much easier. She’s the one doing it all.”

Hogue is ready to begin her tenure as chief marshal and is especially looking forward to when convocation ceremonies can once again be held in person.

“I was surprised and honoured to be asked and I’m excited to take on the role,” says Hogue. “I’m the only one in my family who went to post-secondary education and now I’m chief marshal of convocation — wow! Convocation is probably one of my favourite things and I’m that nerd prof who goes to all of the convocations when I’m here. I didn’t have anybody cheering me on when I was growing up and I think it’s really important for students to see their profs there cheering them on. I had the great opportunity of being present and being on stage when my daughter convocated and that was probably one of my best moments ever. To be able to get up and give her a hug in front of the entire audience — she was so embarrassed — was so much fun for me.”

Piquette has one more tip for Hogue as she prepares for the chief marshal role — have water, lip balm and comfortable shoes close at hand.

“I tend to be a heel-wearer, but Noëlla said the convocation procession is not a time for vanity, so I’m going to take her advice on that one,” says Hogue.

More information about the mace can be found at Convocation Mace.