Doug Hamilton honoured for UFV leadership

Few people alive today have as long an association with Fraser Valley College as Doug Hamilton

Doug Hamilton received an honorary doctorate from UFV.  

Doug Hamilton received an honorary doctorate from UFV.  

Few people alive today have as long an association with Fraser Valley College as Doug Hamilton.

Hamilton, a retired agrologist who turns 90 on July 3, was the first chair of the Fraser Valley College board, or council as it was called then, in 1974. But even before that, he played an integral role in the creation of a college in the Valley.

For his dedication to education and leadership in the early days of Fraser Valley College, Hamilton will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the Fraser Valley at its afternoon convocation ceremony on June 13.

The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. at the Abbotsford Centre.

As UFV celebrates its 40th anniversary and sends more than 2,100 new graduates out into the world this year, it can be difficult to imagine a time when the Fraser Valley didn’t have a public university, or even a college.

But until April 1974, that was the case. People who wanted to get a post-secondary education had to move away.

Groups of concerned citizens worked together on several occasions throughout the 1960s and ’70s to lobby for a college, but early efforts were unsuccessful.

In the 1970s, Hamilton worked for the BC Ministry of Agriculture and was also a member of the Abbotsford school board.

In 1973, he was elected chair of the steering committee that worked as part of the provincial government-appointed task force looking at the feasibility of establishing a college in the Fraser Valley.  Representatives of all the local school districts also took part in the steering committee.

“We held meetings all over the Fraser Valley, explaining the concept of a community college and looking for community support,” Doug recalls. “I also travelled to Ottawa to see the MP to sell him on the concept. We visited colleges in Prince George and Nanaimo and BCIT to look at the different models of education out there.

When government permission was granted to hold a plebiscite to gauge the support of local taxpayers, the task force went into high gear with a publicity campaign to convince the public to come out and vote in favour of a college. In the end, 89 percent of voters supported a college.

Once the provincial government made the proclamation that created Fraser Valley College on April 4, 1974, five senior employees of local school districts (Eric Woodroff, Betty Urquhart, Frank Dolman, Roy Craven, and Bill Sharp) were seconded to work on planning the college at a frenzied pace, as it was to open five months later in September.

The first college council (later called board of governors) was appointed on April 23, 1974 with Hamilton as the chair. He also led the search for a college principal.

He served as board chair until 1979.