High school classmates headed for the mountain

September 08, 2005, vol. 34, no. 1
By Marianne Meadahl

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The radical university may have aged comfortably into mid-life, but for a trio of high school classmates who headed for the hill when SFU first opened, celebrating a 40-year anniversary might feel, a little tight under the collar.

None of them planned or predicted they would still be haunting the AQ hallways four decades later. But if you ask business professor Lindsay Meredith, psychology professor Barry Beyerstein or kinesiology lecturer Craig Asmundson if they'd do it over again, the answer is a resounding yes.

The three graduated together from Burnaby South senior secondary school in 1965, a restless and rebellious time for youth (even their high school sports teams were called the Rebels) and they were eager to check out the bold new university rapidly taking shape in their backyard.

“Oh boy, were we excited by the prospect of what Simon Fraser University had to offer,” recalls Meredith. “ This was not going to be an old traditional monster like other universities. Here, we had something called tutorials, where classes were small and there were actually people you could talk to. You could study all year and the mandate was to be experimental and unique. That was a powerful incentive to kids like us.”

Meredith had also watched his father, a carpenter, work on the university's construction. “It wasn't a case of applying to several universities and seeing where the chips landed. I wanted to come here. I applied here and I got accepted here. It was where I wanted to be.”

Meredith worked quickly through his business degree and left briefly to work in industry as a commodity broker. He returned to do his masters degree and did a short teaching stint at Memorial University while completing his PhD. He decided to take a job offer at SFU, dashing his yearbook goal of becoming a rich lawyer. “It was a good move,” he says.

Beyerstein was also looking for something different when he caught wind of the new university. “SFU was opening right at the time I was ready to enter university, and it seemed exciting to be part of a brand new place, and it was,” says Beyerstein, who played bass tuba in his high school band along with Meredith, who played clarinet.

“I only realized how unique my undergrad experience had been and how many opportunities I'd had that don't normally come to undergrads, when I got to Berkeley and compared notes with my fellow grad students.”

Beyerstein, dubbed “the witty psychoanalyst” in the high school yearbook, went to Berkeley in 1968 and stayed until 1973 — when he was offered a job at SFU. “Been here happily ever since,” he says.

Asmundson chose SFU over UBC so he could remain closer to home and take advantage of what the new place had to offer. “It was exciting to have that choice, coming right out of high school,” he says. After four semesters he left SFU and worked at a variety of jobs, then returned, changing his major four times. He graduated in 1972 and went on to complete his masters degree in kinesiology. A few years later he was hired as a lecturer, though he never had any long range plans to stay beyond getting his degree. “I just fell into things,” he says. “Opportunities presented themselves at the right times and I took advantage of them.”

Since his roots are in the Lower Mainland and his thirst for the outdoors is easily quenched by his surroundings, he didn't want to leave. Ironically, Asmundson's biggest fear, as cited in his graduation yearbook, was that he would “never get out of school.”

“I've been in my job for 30 years and in that time, there hasn't been a day that I haven't looked forward to coming to work,” he concedes. “Vancouver is a great city to live in and SFU is a great place to work. Why would I want to go anywhere else?”

The three boys from Burnaby South high school have been more than just regular faculty employees at SFU.

Each has won a major award for service to the university. Beyerstein and Meredith have received the president's award for service in media and public relations, while Asmundson received the C.D. Nelson award for his contributions outside of academia.

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