People of SFU

Remembering Barbara Rae, SFU’s first woman Chancellor

January 05, 2021

It is with sadness that SFU shares news of the passing of Dr. Barbara Rae, the university’s first woman chancellor, and champion for women’s empowerment and education in B.C.

Barbara Rae C.M., O.B.C., was the first woman to graduate from SFU’s Executive MBA program (1975) and served as CEO of Office Assistance Ltd. (now Adecco), Canada’s first temporary staffing agency. She is credited with creating a whole new industry, and countless employment opportunities, especially for women. She successfully advocated for flexible work arrangements and maternity leave so women could blend family responsibilities with work outside the home.

From 1987 to 1993 Dr. Rae served as SFU Chancellor where she was a strong supporter of women’s athletics. She and her late husband George Suart (former SFU VP, Administration) established the Barbara Rae and George Suart Athletic Award in Women's Basketball Endowment.

She also championed the "It's Her Game" campaign which aimed to raise $1 million towards scholarships for women student athletes. Among her many awards and honours, is the naming of the Barbara Rae Tower in SFU Residences and the Barbara Rae Cup in women's basketball. She received an honorary doctorate from SFU in 1998.

“An inspired community leader and advocate, Dr. Barbara Rae was a trailblazer and role model for women in business, academics and athletics,” says SFU president Joy Johnson. “She helped create numerous opportunities for women in these fields and we are so very grateful for her decades of service to the university. On behalf of the SFU community, I offer heartfelt condolences to Dr. Rae’s family and many friends.”  

(Photo courtesy of the Globe and Mail, l-r): Barbara Rae; Michael Stevenson, president emeritus of SFU; and George Suart, Ms. Rae’s husband, outside the new Barbara Rae House student residence in 2007.