History in the making: a radical publication

September 08, 2005, vol. 34, no. 1
By Diane Luckow

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After two years of archival research, 13 boxes of xeroxed archival material, 50 interviews and two years of intense writing, retired SFU professor of history Hugh Johnston has finally committed SFU's first 10 years of history to print.

His new book, Radical Campus: The Making of Simon Fraser University, will be published on Sept. 9.

“I came to SFU in 1968,” notes Johnston. “It was a wonderful experience to go back and revisit the beginnings of the university, which were so close to the beginnings of my own career.”

Notorious stories and myths of SFU's radical past abound, of course, but how many of them were true? Johnston, together with two research assistants - history students John-Henry Harter and Dino Rossi - enjoyed the hunt, discovering the unexpected along the way.

“My conviction is that nobody at the time really knew what was happening,” says Johnston. “By the time we had our fourth president in 1968, everything the first president knew was gone with him to Ottawa where he found his next job.” And with SFU on a trimester system and people off during various semesters, there was little continuity on committees or in the SFU faculty association. “It was interesting to go back to see what was there - to start lining things up in ways that no one quite saw at the time.”

Those who care about SFU can find out all about Johnston's discoveries in the 400-page book which goes on sale Sept. 9 in the SFU bookstore and which will also be available from the book's publisher, Douglas and McIntyre. Johnston enjoyed all aspects of preparing the book, but he's most looking forward to people's reactions as they read it.

“When what you've enjoyed doing and found interesting finally gets an audience - that hopefully will be the best moment,” he says.

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