Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor
Robert Lapage's "Blue Dragon"
Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre
SFU Woodward's, Vancouver
February 5, 2010
Dr. Michael Stevenson
President and Vice-Chancellor
Simon Fraser UniversityLadies and Gentlemen,
Good Evening and Welcome to SFU at Woodward’s.
Tonight marks a proud day in the history of Simon Fraser University with this gala performance of Robert Lepage’s “Blue Dragon” and the opening of the key public facilities of our School for Contemporary Arts at Woodward’s. There will be much more to come with the completion of construction for this School later in the year, but tonight is truly an occasion for celebration, and for some brief reflection on the reasons we are here.
We are here because SFU is committed to the deepest engagement in the life of our community, and we are here because SFU embraces the arts as fundamental to our education and to our service to the community.
We believe that the arts are integral to creativity, and therefore to the development of Vancouver as a truly creative city.
We believe that the arts give meaning to our individual lives and collective identity, allowing us to transcend the deepest divisions of our society.
We believe that the arts enable the imaginative capacity for empathy, for understanding those in positions quite different from our own, and therefore for overcoming the isolation of the poorest and least powerful.
And we believe that the arts promote our critical capacity to imagine worlds and futures otherwise forbidden in the iron cages of the technological and political status quo, thereby empowering movements for progressive social change.
And so we celebrate the move of SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts to Woodward’s as participants in this great project of social and urban transformation in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. We are here not as an elite educational institution, opportunistically seeking its own advantage, but as partners in this most challenged and challenging part of our community. We look forward to bringing the excitement of the contemporary arts into the life of this community; we look forward to sharing our resources for the widest possible exposure to artistic experience, and we look forward to translating the untapped resources of those marginalized from artistic and other establishments into the shared experience of the whole community.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me thank very quickly those most responsible for our being here:
First, our thanks to the government of the Province of British Columbia, and the people of British Columbia, for the very significant public investment in this project, and especially to Premier Gordon Campbell, without whose personal intervention in support of this project we would not be here.
Second, thank you to the Government of Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Minister James Moore for a special grant that will make possible the sharing of these facilities with arts organizations across the community.
Third, we thank the city of Vancouver, our mayors over the last decade who have shared the vision for this project, Larry Beasley and the team of city planners, and Jim Green who as deputy mayor and councilor played such an important role in this development.
Our thanks go also to the brilliant architect, Gregory Henriquez and his many colleagues whose design and building have so magnificently captured the vision for a creative synthesis of public and private housing, commercial and educational activity, in collaborative commitment to a dynamic and sustainable community.
Similarly, we thank the far-sighted and public-spirited developer, Ian Gillespie, who has managed and assumed the risks of this entire development, and who, with his partner Ben Yeung, has generously donated the land on which SFU’s facilities are located.
I have already observed that we are still in the midst of an active construction site, and I must especially thank those whose heroic work on the building, on arrangements for the outfitting of facilities, the hiring and training of staff as promised from among the residents of the Downtown East Side, and other preparations for the Cultural Olympiad have made it possible for us to be here tonight. My thanks especially to Michael Boucher and to my colleagues in the School for Contemporary Arts and in our Vancouver campus administration.
Finally, thanks to those members of our community whose individual leadership gifts in excess of $1 million have been crucial to SFU’s realization of this dream: the late and much missed Dr. Don Rix, one of this country’s greatest supporters of universities and research; Sam and Fran Belzberg, who in addition to generous support for many causes in this city and around the world, have played a major role in every fundraising initiative at SFU from our first capital campaign, which Sam chaired; the extraordinary Djavad Mowafaghian, whose philanthropy in this city is already legendary, and who has been a principal benefactor of our Faculty of Health Science and now of SFU at Woodward’s; Michael and Yoshi Audain, the most generous of philanthropists and patrons of the arts, who have supported this project from the beginning, and Fei and Milton Wong for whom this theatre is named in recognition of their generous financial contribution as well as in recognition of Milton’s inspirational leadership as Chancellor and Chancellor Emeritus of SFU .
Thank you to all these major donors as well as those I do not have the time to name tonight. Thank you all, ladies and gentlemen, for celebrating with us this evening, and for your future support to SFU at Woodward’s.
Welcome once again to the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre. Please put away and turn off all instruments that might distract the performance, so that we can all enjoy to the fullest the work of the reigning genius of Canadian theatre, Robert Lepage. Thank you, and have a wonderful evening.