Marshall McLuhan gave SFU's first convocation address. Original image from the SFU Archives, F-247-1-29-0-8. Photographer unidentified.


Archives Celebrates Fall Convocation with Release of Digitized Programs

October 02, 2015

By Michelle Curran

It is May 20, 1967. An audience of 2,000 has gathered under the new mall roof to hear Marshall McLuhan give SFU’s first convocation address. Honorary degrees are conferred (including McLuhan's), and the university’s celebrates its first 12 graduates and its first Ph.D. 

A preserved copy of the first convocation ceremony program lists the sequence of events of that memorable day. The program confirms that many convocation traditions, such as the leading of the academic procession by the University Pipers, date back to the first convocation. 

"The meaning is in the pattern. Pattern recognition becomes the sole means of learning in an electronic age of speed: you have to be able to spot patterns instantly."
–Marshall McLuhan

Prior to 1982, the Registrar's Office was responsible for convocation ceremonies, while the President's Office organized other ceremonial functions. Over the years, the title "Ceremonies Officer" was used by various university staff in the Registrar's Office.

In February 1982 the position of Director of Ceremonies was formally created. Today, the Ceremonies and Events Office manages and produces SFU's ceremonial, social, fundraising and special events and maintains SFU's traditions and protocol. It is the main office responsible for Spring and Fall Convocation ceremonies.

University records such as the convocation programs are chock full of stories that provide context and meaning. The interrelationships among these records are there for researchers to discover, digest, and contemplate. 

McLuhan’s original convocation address is a real gem. (Visit the Archives to access
a copy of the address. It's in F-91-3-0-0-1.) He had this to say about navigating and making information useful:

“The meaning is in the pattern. Pattern recognition becomes the sole means of learning in an electronic age of speed: you have to be able to spot patterns instantly.”

Why not have a look for yourself and see what patterns you can spot in the Archives?

Link to digitized records in SFU AtoM
Convocation files series:

Recommended fonds/collections
In SFU AtoM: Ceremonies and Events Office fonds (F-91)
At Library and Archives Canada: Marshall McLuhan fonds [multiple media]
At the University of St. Michaels / John M. Kelly Library, Rare Books Collection: Marshall McLuhan Collection

Recommended reading
Letters of Marshall McLuhan [electronic resource] / selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, William Toye.

Recommended AV recording
Marshall McLuhan [videorecording] : the man and his message / produced by McLuhan productions in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ; produced & directed by Stephanie McLuhan ; written by Tom Wolfe.