Consider these names: Lloyd Grisdale, Gerry Amerongen, Tevie Miller, Peter Lougheed, Doug Burns, Bob Edgar, Lou Hyndman, John Decore, Richard Price, Branny Shepanovich, Marilyn Pilkington, Tim Christian, Cheryl Hume, Robert Greenhill, Paul LaGrange Rao, David Tupper and Suresh Mustapha.
What do these people have in common? They are all former presidents of the University of Alberta Students' Union. And these are just a few of the presidents.
Student leaders at the University of Alberta— not just SU presidents, but other Students' Union and Graduate Students' Association executive members, Gateway editors and others — have gone on to make their marks in society after their graduation from the University of Alberta. They are among today's "who's who" in such areas of endeavor as business, social reform, politics,jornalism, health and education.
You may not yet recognize the names of current Students' Union leaders, but chances are you will over time. Based in the Students' Union Building, these young men and women manage a multi-faceted corporation with an annual operating budget of about $6.5 million and more than 200 employees.
And they don't back down from a challenge. As a result, when students returned to campus this fall they found extensive changes to the interior of the seven-storey building into which the Students' Union moved in the mid-'60s.
In 1967 at the official opening of that building, Laura Kilgour (Scott), '69 BA, '72 LLB, dedicated the newly constructed Students' Union Building to the "students of tomorrow" to serve them as "an investment in their individual, educational, cultural, social and recreational needs." (The SUB remembered by students of the previous era is now known as University Hall and houses the University's president and other University administrative offices.)
The new Students' Union Building immediately became the student leadership and entertainment centre on campus, housing the SU administrative offices, CJSR Campus Radio, Dinwoodie Lounge, the Gateway newspaper offices, the Room At The Top (RATT) pub, and more than 150 studentorganized clubs and associations. It is also home to the Myer Horowitz Theatre and the University Bookstore.
Recently, faced with fragmented student services, declining commercial revenues, the relocation of a major tenant and aging amenities, Students' Union leaders boldly decided to redesign the interior of SUB. Undaunted by advisors (among them University planners) who doubted that renovations could be completed during a single summer, the students and their staff developed a mission statement for the building, saw that translated into detailed plans, hired consultants, arranged financing, and dealt with the myriad of wrinkles uncovered as the renovation progressed.
The construction work began in mid-April, reached a peak in July and August, and on 10 September 1993, a revitalized SUB was proudly rededicated to U of A students. At that celebration the current SU president, Terence Filewych, noted that the refurbished building "now has centralized student services, more relaxation space, improved food service, a new games area and a planned Alumni Wall of Recognition." Concluded Filewych: "SUB can now — once again — be the centre of non-academic life on campus."
By enclosing some roofed-over exterior areas and reconfiguring interior space on the main and lower levels, the students were able to accommodate several changes. These include the coordination (on the lower level) of student resource, meeting and club rooms; the opening of 500 square metres of bright, airy space for socializing or studying; the addition of three new food retailers (for total of seven within the building), along with expanded food court seating; a separate video games room with 50 games; and a renovated billiards area featuring 10 new Dufferin pool tables.
Large expanses of glass, brighter floor tiles and ceilings, and new lighting contribute to a feeling of spaciousness in the renovated building. The students also made SUB more accessible by addressing the needs of wheelchair users and by adding braille plates in the elevators.
The students who encountered SUB's new look when they returned to classes in September had good things to say about it. Questioning elicited the following positive comments: "brighter, cheerier, good color"; "more open, room to move"; and "very practical, SUB will be used more." You can't please everyone, however: one wag was heard to complain that there should have been more couches — he couldn't sleep as comfortably by the fireplace anymore.
Helping students celebrate the rededication of SUB at the 10 September ceremony, University chancellor Sandy Mactaggart noted the building's use by "so many studer* groups that add immeasurably to the quality of student life." Stan Milner,'51 BSc, chair 070 the Universitv's Board of Governors, paid tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of the students, applauding their business acumen in the way they arranged financing (the students were able to borrow money at a very favorable rate while protecting their longer term investments, which yield a higher return). Al Anderson, '67 BCom, who was involved with the original building opening in 1967, predicted that the 1993 renovations would help restore SUB to the position of "the living room of campus."
University president Paul Davenport a1Ptook part in the rededication ceremonies. "I congratulate you on your energy and drive, and on your spirited and business-like approach," said the University president. Davenport also wished the students well in their planned fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $400,000 of the total $2.3 million in capital construction costs.
Now that the renovations are completed, the fundraising is the major challenge facing the student leaders. Under the leadership of Filewych and Randy Boissonnault, who held the SU's top office in 1992-93, the students have launched a fundraising campaign that includes a student raffle, a commemorative book wall, and corporate approaches. Current student leaders and volunteers are also appealing to former student leaders, believing that they best understand and value the challenges and opportunities each Students' Union executive group experiences.
The enthusiasm and commitment of Filewych, Boissonnault and other student leaders has led to good initial support from volunteer fundraisers and donors. The five-member SU executive teams from both the current and past year have each pledged $1,000 - a $400 individual pledge from each of those students who served on both executives. (As contributors of $1,000 or more, each executive team will earn a place on the planned donor recognition wall.)
Filewych and Boissonnault believe that the corporate community will want to become involved, recognizing that today's students are tomorrow's leaders in every field. They are also hoping that current donors to the University may want to round out their giving through direct support of student initiatives.
The SU fundraisers view the renovated Students' Union Building as contributing to the long-term vitality and attractiveness of the University as a whole, so they don't see any conflict with ongoing University fund development programs.
Before the facelift, an estimated 12,000 students and University staff passed through SUB daily. The Students' Union leaders have noted a significant increase in that number this term and attribute the increase to the enhanced amenities and better coordination of student services within the building.
Students aren't the only ones to be impressed by the changed face of SUB. Alumni who returned to campus for the annual Reunion Weekend in October —including many members of the Class of 1968 (this year's Silver Class) who were among the first to benefit from the new Students' Union Building — praised the changed face of SUB.
Filewych and Boissonnault are pleased with the reception that their transformation of SUB has received and are encouraging alumni to visit and enjoy the revitalized student facility. The student leaders are also gratified by the initial response to their fundraising efforts. They report finding a willing response to investing today in people who will help shape our future society.
And who will be the leaders when that future society is being shaped? Here are some names to watch for: besides Terence Filewych and Randy Boissonnault, look for current and former SU executive members Suzanne Scott, Jolanda Slagmolen, Danya Handelsman, JoAnne Bishop, Victor Cui, Sean Andrew and Karen Wichuk. Twenty years from now, these names may be as recognizable as those at the start of this article.
Published Winter 1994.