Born January 14, 1896 in Smithville, ON, Gordon Shrum is considered by many to be the father of success for UBC’s storied athletics department. A former gunner in World War I at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Shrum had originally started his studies at the University of Toronto in 1913, but left to enlist in 1916. He returned in 1919, and arrived at UBC in 1925 as member of the faculty of science, already a noted figure as the first to identify the green in Aurora Borealis as a result of oxygen.
The annual match between the UBC Thunderbirds and the SFU Clansmen football teams, started in 1967, is affectionally named the Shrum Bowl after the man who meant so much to UBC’s athletics program. When Shrum arrived at UBC, he came with an understanding of the effects a solid athletics program, namely a strong football background, could have on a school’s sense of community. It was his hope that he could model UBC after American schools. Shrum entrenched football there by the late 1920s, hiring strong coaches like Frank Gnup for football, but also valued athletic coordinators and administrators.
By 1937, Shrum had overseen the construction of Varsity Stadium, the University’s first sports stadium. Empire Pool followed in 1954, and was used to support the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver with a pool facility. Shrum served as the head of the Athletes Housing Committee, offering UBC’s student housing to athletes and putting Vancouver’s sporting market on the map.
In 1961, Shrum retired from UBC but was called on by Premiere W.A.C. to be the co-chairman of BC Hyrdo. Two years later, he was tapped again to build a new University in Burnaby. Simon Fraser University was Shrum’s brain child, melding academics and athletics and offering students sports scholarships. He was placed as Chancellor and Chairtman of the Board. He passed away in 1985 and leaves behind a legacy in the athletics programs at both UBC and SFU.