SFU Vancouver celebrates 30 years as intellectual heart of the city

May 02, 2019

It was an audacious decision that brought Simon Fraser University into the heart of Vancouver 30 years ago this week. One might even say it was “radical.”

Thanks to the vision of President Bill Saywell and Vice President Jack Blaney, aided by Board Member Joe Segal and many others, the move has hugely benefited the university as well as the communities we serve.

Now with nine locations that engage over 70,000 people annually in academic and community programs, SFU is by far the largest post-secondary institution in the city centre.

Our presence has helped to revitalize the downtown core. Many of our facilities have involved the restoration of key heritage structures. The students, faculty and staff who participate in our programs have helped to enliven an area of the city that was at risk. Our community engagement, social innovation and business development centres have provided much in the way of social and economic value.   

The Vancouver Sun has gone so far as to call us “the intellectual heart of the city.”

At the same time, SFU has benefited from our proximity to the city and the opportunities it provides our students to engage with local government, businesses, arts organizations and other community groups. It has also enabled our researchers to better connect with civil society, and to gain local knowledge, insight and purpose in the process.  

And our community programming has gained us recognition as an arts venue and a public square, even as it has provided citizens with a source of cultural enrichment and a forum for enlightenment and dialogue on important issues of the day.   

The university’s successful foray into Vancouver has also informed our institutional direction, setting the stage for SFU to adopt a strategic vision as Canada’s “engaged university.” It also gave us the confidence to take on a new location in Surrey, and to become a three-campus university based in B.C.’s three largest municipalities.   

The Vancouver Campus is a shining example of the mutual benefits that universities and cities can derive by working together to serve the needs of the communities in which we live, work and play.

I am deeply grateful for the support we have received over the years: from our generous donors, our wonderful community partners, our engaged students and alumni, and all those who have given their energy, ideas and resources to create and build the downtown campus.

Happy birthday SFU Vancouver!