Invitation to the official opening of the university on September 9, 1965.


Digitized Programs Commemorate SFU’s Opening & Installation Ceremonies

September 07, 2015

By Michelle Curran

A crowd gathered on a warm September day in 1965 for the official opening of Simon Fraser University, a new university in British Columbia's Lower Mainland. The setting was magnificent — 1200 acres atop Burnaby Mountain, with commanding views over Burrard Inlet, the North Shore mountains, the Fraser River, and Vancouver Harbour.

The Opening Ceremonies began with The Right Reverend Godfrey Gower, Bishop of New Westminster, delivering the opening invocation. Following that, Chancellor Gordon Shrum was first to speak. “I believe our modern world offers no challenge more rewarding and exciting than founding a new University,” he observed. “The sense of excitement is heightened when it is a large University and one that has started from nothing more than a thickly forested mountain top.”

Dr. Shrum’s words have been preserved in a copy of his prepared speech at the SFU Archives, among other records he created, received and collected while serving as Chancellor of SFU. His personal records, along with official university records kept by the Ceremonies and Events Office, help us understand what went into the planning and delivery of the Opening Ceremonies at SFU in 1965.

"A University develops and gains strength from many sources, but I know that we will gain most from those both within and without these, as yet, unstoried halls who get to know and love Simon Fraser University," Dr. Shrum said.

Following the Chancellor's address, Premier W.A.C. Bennett declared the campus open by unveiling a jade plaque, on which were carved the words Simon Fraser University, 1965. It would be installed as the cornerstone plaque of the university.

During the dedication, SFU's first President, Dr. Patrick McTaggart-Cowan, explained the history of the Fraser River jade boulder:

"The premier has just unveiled the plaque to be placed on 8,993 pounds of beautiful, polished B.C. jade, from Hell's Creek on the route followed by Simon Fraser, the explorer."

Notes compiled by the University Archives in 1982 reveal that the original concept for the jade came from Dr. Allan B. Cunningham, charter head of the Department of History. He and Peter A. White, a recognized amateur expert on jade, took up the search. After a lengthy and painstaking quest, they discovered the impressive boulder resting in the Bridge River bed near Hell's Creek in the Lillooet area of the Cariboo.

It was at this juncture that the O'Keefe Brewing Company agreed to donate a symbolic memorial in the form of the monumental piece of jade to SFU at its official opening. With the completion of the Academic Quadrangle and its landscaping, a still pool became the permanent resting place for this mountain jade.

While the ceremonies were described as brief and to the point, Scottish nobleman Lord Lovat was the actor who stole the show. Newspapers described Lovat, a descendant of Simon Fraser and head of the Fraser clan, as a person who "commanded the public's attention with his handsome demeanor, and captured their imagination with his gifts [to the university]: an ancient claymore and a well-worn powder horn."

"As Antony said to Cleopatra, I haven't come here to talk," Lovat admitted while captivating his audience.

Records in the archives also document SFU’s first congregation on October 28, 1965, which installed Chancellor and President Patrick D. McTaggart-Cowan. The event marked the first assembly of SFU’s Convocation Founders from locations throughout the province. Honorary degrees were conferred at the same ceremony.

Digitized versions of the original program books, handed out during SFU’s Opening and Installation Ceremonies, are now visible in SFU AtoM. To learn more about these and other events during the early years of SFU’s history, visit SFU AtoM and look for the answers in the archives.

Link to digitized records in SFU AtoM
Opening Ceremonies program (F-91-1-0-0-3-1)
Installation Ceremonies program (F-91-2-0-0-1-1)

Recommended fonds/collections
In SFU AtoM: Ceremonies and Events Office fonds (F-91),  Gordon Shrum fonds (F-32), and Patrick McTaggart-Cowan fonds (F-65)

Recommended reading
Gordon Shrum: An Autobiography with Peter Stursberg

Recommended AV recording
Simon Fraser University [videorecording] : a history / scripted and directed by Michael Hoskins; produced by Chris Hildred for the Instructional Media Centre.

An oral history of SFU [videorecording] : the excitement of the early years / [filmed and edited by Joel Schwarz].