History of Simon Fraser University

The university is named after Simon Fraser, loyalist, fur trader and explorer, who in 1808 completed a great journey in the annals of Canadian history by descending the river which today bears his name. In January 1963, a report recommended the creation of a new university in the Lower Mainland — two months later the establishment of Simon Fraser University received formal assent in the British Columbia Legislature and Dr. Gordon M. Shrum was appointed the first chancellor.

From a variety of sites, the chancellor recommended the top of Burnaby Mountain, with its magnificent views of Burrard Inlet, the Coast Mountains, the Fraser River and Vancouver harbour – the unceded, traditional and occupied lands of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Kwikwetlem peoples.

The Vancouver firm of Erickson/Massey won the design competition, but the four runner-up architects each designed at least one building within the overall plan. Construction began in the spring of 1964 and 18 months later on September 9, 1965, SFU opened to 2,500 charter students.

Since then, the university expanded to downtown Vancouver and the Surrey Central district. The Vancouver campus has grown from a modest storefront offering night school classes in the early ‘80s to the largest post-secondary institution downtown. SFU Vancouver’s nine sites offer degree and continuing studies opportunities for students and include several galleries, innovation centres, a student residence and the internationally renowned Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. SFU’s Vancouver campus celebrated 30 years of learning, research and community engagement in 2019.

Since 2002, SFU’s Surrey campus has helped define and shape Surrey’s city centre. The campus offers a diverse number of undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies courses and is home to world-class, leading edge research in health, energy and creative technologies. The Surrey campus also supports a thriving entrepreneurial learning environment. The campus currently occupies a stunning facility designed by renowned architect Bing Thom. In the fall of 2019, SFU’s Surrey campus opened its newest 160,000 square foot building, the last project designed by the late Thom. The building houses SFU’s new School of Sustainable Energy Engineering featuring innovative labs and a 400-seat lecture theatre for both academic and community use.

Simon Fraser University has been characterized by its adventurous spirit, openness, willingness to embrace bold initiatives and its commitment to reconciliation. SFU’s unique educational programs, inspired research and vibrant community relations set it apart from other universities — in B.C. and in Canada.

SFU respectfully acknowledges that its three campuses reside on the traditional, unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Kwantlen, q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), Qayqayt, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples.