September 9 was a perfect day to officially celebrate Simon Fraser University’s 50th anniversary. The sun was shining, new students at the University were filled with excitement and hundreds of the first students of SFU (Charter Alumni) began to make their way back up the hill again to their alma mater. To kick things off, a grand event hosted by SFU Alumnus Riaz Meghji, host of CityTV’s “Breakfast Television” show, brought out Andrew Petter (SFU President), Anne Giardini (SFU Chancellor), Japanese Taiko Drummers, a Bhangra dance crew and the six time world champion SFU Pipe Band, among others. A surprising smattering of cheers from the Charter Alumni erupted when Meghji, who graduated in 1995, recalled his fond memories of going to the library and using microfiche for research. You know that the crowds are ready to celebrate when they cheer for microfiche! Cake and cupcakes were served at all three campuses and the winner of SFU’s first legacy song contest performed live for the first time.
As one of the remaining four original buildings constructed in 1965, the library was a natural meeting place for the Charter Alumni to revisit. The Dean of Libraries, Gwen Bird, organized private tours, with her Associate Librarian team acting as tour guides. For some of these alumni, it had been more than 40 years since they stepped foot through the front doors. They remarked that much of the student spaces have been updated, while from the outside, the library remained almost the same. Much of the conversation in the library was lively with warm memories of specific librarians who aided their studies and research, discussions about the protests of the late 1960s and the sit-in that was organized in the University Administration offices, formerly located in the library building.
In the evening, the Burnaby campus was again flooded with more visitors. The sold out Celebrate and Savour Festival featured food and drinks from more than 30 of Metro Vancouver’s top chefs. The University campus was transformed into an outdoor wonderland of sparkly lights, candles, acoustic music, roving costumed performers and whimsical mismatched furniture.
Christopher Gaze emceed the formal portion of the program, which included a gift announcement from the City of Burnaby. Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, President Petter, Chancellor Giardini, Professor Paul Budra and Lt. Governor of BC, Her Honour the Honourable Judith Guichon were on hand to provide remarks. Leslie Beck, an SFU Charter Alumni, reprised her role from 1965 as the town crier by donning the tricorne hat to officially kick off the food festival. It was the perfect day to celebrate and kick off a year of special events that were organized by virtually every faculty, department and service at SFU.
In October, the library hosted the Charter Alumni for Fall Convocation. Organized by Alumni Relations, more than twenty Charter Alumni enjoyed a breakfast reception in the library and once again donned blue gowns and caps to sit alongside the class of 2015. A symbolic gesture of the first students of the University welcoming new alumni more than 50 years later. One alumnae brought her mother and daughter. Having missed her own convocation almost 46 years ago, this was her first time to walk across the stage and receive her recognition for years of studies.
SFU Library is looking forward to continuing the celebrations throughout the rest of 2015 and into the spring of 2016. In partnership with SFU Public Square and the Community Summit: We the City, the library is hosting a free event, One City: One Book, One SFU with author Teju Cole and Eleanor Wachtel on November 5, 2015. In March, the annual SFU Author’s event will be expanded and moved to Surrey City Hall and in partnership with the City of Burnaby, the library will be presenting a weeklong program called the Festival of Learning – the capstone event for the 50th celebrations.
Virginia Hong is the Director of Major Gifts at Simon Fraser University and also a MBA Candidate at the Beedie School of Business at SFU.