Memories of Hogarth House

February 23, 2006, vol. 35, no. 4
By Roberta Staley

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Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when students protested on campus and famously occupied the administration offices, there was a little island of calm and tradition.

It was Madge Hogarth house, a women-only student residence named in honour of Vancouver philanthropist and SFU convocation founder, Madge Hogarth Trumbull, who financed the building. Hogarth herself, primly regal, would come and take tea once a year in the common room with the Madge girls, whose reputation was quite the opposite of SFU's more radical students. Hogarth house had strict rules (no overnight visitors) and a den mother, who had an office on the main floor of the residence and oversaw the comings and goings of her 65 charges.

In this atmosphere of conservative tradition Bev Carlson began her long career at SFU in 1973 as Hogarth house den mother. Carlson was 40 at the time, and the job was her first in two decades, as she had been busy mothering her own four children. Carlson says that she was "very flexible in my job, and never rigid with the rules." Rather than cultivating anarchy, this philosophy allowed Carlson to gain the trust of the out-of-town, first- and second-year residents.

Carlson was a staunch supporter of all the students who lived and studied at the residence. Officially, she managed the building and the leasing of the rooms, as well as maintenance and repairs. But students knew they could enter Carlson's office at any time to seek solace and advice for homesickness, study and relationship problems, or even cooking tips.

Kim Floeck, a Vancouver lawyer who attended SFU from 1970 to 1975, lived in Hogarth house while Carlson was den mother. "She was always ready to listen sympathetically," Floeck recalls. "She was combination house administrator, rule enforcer, surrogate parent, surrogate older sister, counsellor and the person who would phone the plumber when the toilet was plugged."

The close connection with students has resulted in scores of long-lasting relationships, many of which are still going strong today, says Carlson, now 72. This includes not only Hogarth house residents, but the families and couples who populated Louis Riel house, where Carlson moved as apartment clerk in 1980. (Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan was a student in residence during Carlson's era.)

Carlson, once again, cultivated a sense of family among the 500 residents. She created a photo collage above the residence mailboxes, and refreshed it with pictures of residents' children's birthday parties, convocation ceremonies, and triumphant graduates following successful master's or PhD defences. Carlson always attended defences of the students, to give them moral support, and kept the office cookie jar full for students' children.

It is not surprising that Carlson was the first recipient of SFU's annual staff achievement award in 1996.

Carlson has not really left SFU, although she officially retired in 1998. She has been a board member of the SFU Retirees Association, which boasts more than 300 members, and is often found on campus planning outings or stuffing envelopes. She has also been the group's social convener.

It is time, Carlson says, to step down and let new blood take over the social planning. But she doesn't expect her activity level to diminish. Carlson and her husband Einar Carlson, a retired architect, occasionally have former students visit their home. "Never," muses Carlson, "is there a dull moment."

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