This portion of the interview is about Dr. Ron Baker describing how the site for SFU was chosen. He talks about the study of driving times in the Macdonald report that suggested that Burnaby provided best access for the maximum number of students, the alternate sites considered for the university i…
This portion of the interview is about Dr. Ron Baker describing how the site for SFU was chosen. He talks about the study of driving times in the Macdonald report that suggested that Burnaby provided best access for the maximum number of students, the alternate sites considered for the university in New Westminster and Burnaby, and Reeve Alan Emmott’s role in choosing Burnaby Mountain. He also talks about the problem of isolation of SFU on Burnaby Mountain, and why out of the way places are often chosen for universities in BC.
Recording is of an interview with Dr. Ronald James Baker conducted by Kathy Bossort. Ron Baker was one of 23 participants interviewed as part of the Community Heritage Commission’s Burnaby Mountain Oral History Project. The interview is mainly about the founding of Simon Fraser University from the perspective of SFU’s first faculty member and Director of Academic Planning, Ron Baker. Ron Baker talks about John B. Macdonald’s report on higher education in BC (1962) and how it lead to the provincial government’s decision to establish a new university and to put it in the Burnaby area. He tells stories about how the site on Burnaby Mountain was chosen; about the building of the campus; and about the challenges of planning the academic structure of the university. He also talks about the attraction of creating with little interference an institution trying out new ideas and tells stories about his working relationship with Gordon Shrum. He considers the problems created by building universities in out of the way places and the ideas such as UniverCity for dealing with SFU’s isolation.
Ron Baker was born in London, England, in 1924, and served in the Royal Air Force during WW2. He emigrated to Canada in 1947 and studied at UBC where he obtained a BA degree (1951) and MA degree (1953) in English Language and Literature. He served on the faculty of the UBC English Department beginning as a lecturer in 1951 and advanced to positions of Assistant Professor (1958-63) and Associate Professor (1963-65). He was a contributor to John B. Macdonald’s 1962 report “Higher Education in British Columbia and a Plan for the Future”, and continued to make significant contributions to the establishment of the community college system in Canada throughout his career. In 1963 the newly established Simon Fraser University hired Ron as its first Director of Academic Planning, serving also as first head of SFU’s English Department. In 1969 Ron left SFU to become the first President of the University of Prince Edward Island, a position he held until 1978. In 1978 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to higher education. Ron has contributed to many organizations, including serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, on Canada Council, and as President of Association of Atlantic Universities and the Association of Canadian University Teachers of English. In 1990 Ron Baker was asked by the government of BC to prepare a preliminary report on the establishment of the future UNBC in Prince George. Now retired Ron Baker lives in the Edmonds area of Burnaby.
Kathy Bossort is a retired archivist living in Ladner, BC. She worked at the Delta Museum and Archives after graduating from SLAIS (UBC) in 2001 with Masters degrees in library science and archival studies. Kathy grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and, prior to this career change, she lived in the West Kootenays, earning her living as a cook for BC tourist lodges and work camps. She continues to be interested in oral histories as a way to fill the gaps in the written record and bring richer meaning to history.