Photo of SFU's first chancellor Gordon Shrum taken by the Instructional Media Centre circa 1965. SFU Archives, F-247-1-28-0-13.


Oral History Provides Glimpse into Mind of SFU’s First Chancellor Gordon Shrum

January 08, 2016

By Michelle Curran

Every modern generation has witnessed changes in the way people communicate.

We’ve seen how the widespread use of social media has revolutionized interpersonal communications — from commuters video-chatting with friends to protestors sharing news and planning activities during the Arab Spring.

We’ve heard thought leaders and technologists discuss the potential of social networks for collaboration and sharing.

Regardless of the technological changes, humans have been communicating and sharing their experiences since our most distant hominid ancestors first began to communicate over five million years ago.

In more recent times, oral history interviews and other recorded communication help us understand social perspectives that might not otherwise appear in a written historical record. Oral histories can help researchers identify personal stories and motivations around historical events. Occasionally, oral histories provide that rare glimpse into the hopes, feelings, aspirations, biases, disappointments, family histories, and personal experiences of the individuals who were interviewed.

"University Archivist Liisa Fagerlund's thought-provoking interview questions provide a foil for Shrum's outspoken personality."

In the Gordon Shrum collection (F-31) at the SFU Archives, series F-31-3Shrum and SFU interviews contains unedited and edited transcripts and audio recordings of an interview of Dr. Shrum. University Archivist and Librarian Liisa Fagerlund conducted the interview as part of an oral history project undertaken by the archives in 1974.

Part confessional and part narrative, the Shrum interview contains historical recollections from his perspective. Throughout, Fagerlund’s thought-provoking interview questions provide a foil for Shrum’s outspoken personality.

As of today, you can stream the audio recordings of the Shrum and SFU interviews directly from SFU AtoM, and take a trip down memory lane into the mind of SFU’s first Chancellor.