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People of SFU
Quiet leadership through decades of change
By Erin Brown-John and Caryn Cameron
Byron Henry joined the Office of the Registrar at Simon Fraser University in 1988, working with a team of two to deliver print publications such as the University Calendar and Convocation program. In the years since, he has played an instrumental role in guiding Student Services communications through several waves of change, earning him a 2020 staff achievement award for lifetime achievement.
As the director of communication services for Student Services, Henry has led several significant projects to improve student communications over his 33 years at SFU, including launching the Registrar’s website in 1994, piloting online admission and course registration, and introducing laser-printed degree parchments and mass email.
“What used to take days and a lot of skill and experience to do by hand, like prep a photo, or set type for publication, took a few hours with a Mac Classic when I started, and today takes literally only a matter of minutes,” he says.
Still, while the technology has changed, the underlying principles remain the same. His colleagues value his work as a writer and strategic thinker, and his ability to continually hone in on what’s important, and how it ties in with SFU’s mission and values. Regardless of the medium, he says “you still need to come up with the right words and pictures.”
As communication technology has become more powerful, the range and complexity of Student Services’ communications needs has only increased over time. Under Henry’s leadership the Student Services Communications team has grown to eight full-time staff working on print, web, email, video, social media and now the new CRM.
His trust and laid-back management style have contributed to low staff turnover in what he often refers to as one of the hardest working teams at SFU.
Throughout his time at the university he’s had the chance to watch it grow and mature as an institution. “SFU feels more self-confident now, more open to innovation and change.”
The staff achievement award for lifetime achievement is a fitting tribute to an employee of Henry’s talent and dedication. Thinking back on his three-decades at SFU, Henry says that the best part of working at the university has been the people he’s worked with along the way. Recognizing that no one can do it all, he’s taken his father’s advice to heart: “always hire people who are smarter than you.”