Flash mob interrupts retiring U of T chancellor David Peterson’s final convocation

University of Toronto Chancellor David PetersonThursday marked David Peterson's final convocation ceremony as University of Toronto chancellor.

His career was honoured by a flash mob that moved him to tears, the Toronto Star reports.

As president David Naylor gave his final words of advice in Convocation Hall, the giant pipe organ cut him off.

A student stood and up and started singing, "Farewell, dear chancellor, all your convocations are done," to the tune of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Other students joined in. Curtains rose to reveal a gospel choir and large band. Soon the crowd was clapping along. Student Matt Woroshyl ended the musical surprise with a saxophone solo.

"I've changed my mind, I'm not leaving," Peterson joked, making an impromptu speech when everything had quieted down.

A former Ontario premier, Peterson, 68, has been chancellor at the University of Toronto for the last six years, a volunteer job he juggled with his full-time position as chairman of the law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell.

Plans for the flash mob began in January, after staff learned of Peterson's love of flash mobs and gospel music. Students from the choral, jazz and opera programs in the Faculty of Music came together two months ago, conducted by the faculty's Jehanbakhsh Jasavala.

"I had no idea. Naylor, I'm telling you, this was, I cried, I was moved, I was confused," Peterson said at the ceremony, "then I was sweating and crying, I didn't know what was going on, I was so overwhelmed."

On June 30th, Peterson will officially pass the mace, an ornate staff, to Michael Wilson, former ambassador to the United States of America.

Photo courtesy University of Toronto