> SFU to mark 100,000th graduate at June 5 ceremony

SFU to mark 100,000th graduate at June 5 ceremony

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Krista Gerlich-Fitzgerald, 604.250.7722 (cell); kag3@sfu.ca
Robert Thompson, 506.364.2579; rthompson@mat.ca
Kate Ross, Registrar, 778.782.4176; kuross@sfu.ca
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.4323/3210

Photos of Gerlich-Fitzgerald, Thompson available from PAMR

June 3, 2008
Simon Fraser University will tally its 100,000th graduate this week when Krista Gerlich-Fitzgerald crosses the stage during Convocation.

Gerlich-Fitzgerald, a criminology major whose next stop is law school at the UK’s Manchester University, will be part of the June 5 ceremony (Thursday) at 2:30 p.m.

SFU President Michael Stevenson will recognize Gerlich-Fitzgerald in a brief ceremony when she appears on the stage during the naming of graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Gerlich-Fitzgerald, who currently resides in Burnaby, transferred to SFU three years ago from Camosun College in Victoria, where she began criminology studies after her family moved to Vancouver Island from Ottawa.

“I’ve known since about Grade 10 that I wanted to study law,” says Gerlich-Fitzgerald. “I have an appreciation for what the (criminal justice) system is trying to do, but I also realize that there are some things that need to be changed. By going into law I hope to bring about some change in the system.”

Long before being identified as the 100,000th graduate, Gerlich-Fitzgerald was involved in the School of Criminology’s student union, as a forum representative, then eventually as union president. She was also active in the LEAD program, a series of leadership training workshops designed to instill innovation in young leaders.

Through her student union role, Gerlich-Fitzgerald was instrumental in the establishment of a new award that recognizes student-based involvement in the criminology field.

On hand for her June 5 graduation will be Gerlich-Fitzgerald’s fiancé, Angelus Chang – an SFU student who convocates on Friday. The two met as members of SFU’s cheerleading squad. Chang, a gymnastics instructor, helped Gerlich-Fitzgerald work on her routines.

Gerlich-Fitzgerald – a former competitive gymnast – will marry Chang this summer before the pair heads off to the UK, where Chang will pursue work in his field.

Meanwhile, SFU’s very first graduate was pleasantly surprised by the news that so many graduates have followed in his footsteps since the university’s first Convocation ceremony (May 20, 1967), two years after its opening.

“It’s just amazing to see, having been part of a class of only 12 when I graduated,” says Bob Thompson, who is now a professor emeritus in biology at Mount Allison University. Thompson earned SFU’s first degree – a Master of Science degree.

While the numbers have grown considerably – more than 3,100 students are eligible to graduate this week – the pomp-and-ceremony has largely stayed true to the original program.

Backgrounder: Thompson receives SFU’s first degree

“I remember Convocation was a beautiful sunny spring day. Faculty and graduates – all 12 of us - assembled in the concourse where we were lined up in correct sequence to make our procession.

“A piper led us across the courtyard and down the steps opening into a then non-glass-covered mall. 

“Those receiving master and PhD degrees were seated off to the side in front of the entrance to the theatre while the bachelor degree recipients were in front facing the main stage.

“Later, a picture appeared in newspapers describing the Convocation ceremony, showing the master degree recipients sitting in a row in our blue gowns.

“When I arrived in front of the chancellor, Don Nelson, my PhD supervisor and the vice president academic stood up and accompanied me to the front of the stage.

“He indicated that I should turn and face the graduating students and guests.  The thought passed through my mind, what have I done now! They are going to publicly rescind my degree because I failed some kind of essential requirement and they only found out about it this morning.

“Instead, Dr. Nelson presented me as the first student to earn a degree on course work and original research which I had done a year or so previously. 

“I started at SFU in the autumn of 1965 when it first opened and since master degrees are normally less than two years in duration I was fortunate enough to be the first student to defend a masters thesis.  In the intervening period other students had defended masters and PhD theses. 

“Until being presented to Convocation I hadn't been aware that my thesis was the first to be defended. Dr. Nelson turned me around to face the chancellor, who acknowledged me and I was presented with my degree.

“I then returned to my seat, my degree intact and fully aware that I had earned the first degree from SFU.”

Video 818mb ZIP File (MOV) - Convo 2008 100-1.zip

Video 796mb ZIP File (MOV) - Convo 2008 100-2.zip

Click on image for high res version.