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$100,000 Goal Achieved!

Grads Rename Lounge to Honour "Best Friend"

The Peak
July 28, 2008

By Shara Lee, News Editor

Notables from across the University came together to honour and remember Laurine Harrison, the former ombudsperson of the Simon Fraser Student Society who died of a heart attack in 2007 at age 51. The room formerly referred to as the grad lounge in the Maggie Benston Centre was dedicated to her memory in a small ceremony last Thursday.

Family members and close friends, along with university administrators, Student Society directors and Society staff people were among the attendees to last Thursday’s dedication.

Michael Letourneau, a member of the Graduate Student Society emceed the event and began the commemoration detailing Harrison’s many contributions to the graduate students of Simon Fraser University in a compelling address. “Laurine’s been the best friend grad students could have at SFU,” he said.

Letourneau’s introduction was followed by heartfelt speeches from Sarah Dench, a University staff person, Women’s Centre Coordinator Nadine Chambers, and former SFSS Graduate Issues Officer Joel Blok.

During the speech given by Chambers, a family member of Harrison’s was moved to tears. “I just wanted to let you know that she is with us. We loved her so much,” said Chambers to Harrison’s family. “She was my touchstone here. I think we worked in similar ways.”

Blok acknowledged the contributions that Harrison had given to graduate students in particular. “It seemed really fitting to do something to remember all that Laurine did for grads,” said Blok, referring to Harrison’s lengthy career in the Student Society. Before becoming ombudsperson, Harrison held the now defunct position of SFSS University Field Worker in which she helped establish the Graduate Issues Council, an independent political forum for SFU’s grad students which served as the precursor to today’s Graduate Student Society.

Graduate Student Society President Clea Moray presented a $500 donation from the GSS to Harrison’s long-time partner Susan Cox for the Laurine Harrison Endowment fund. “I think it’s a wonderful tribute,” said Cox who originally met Harrison when she was still a student politician pursuing her graduate degree at SFU. Cox is now a professor of Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia. Harrison’s endowment fund will provide three awards; two are designated for undergraduates, and one is designated for graduate students.

The website for the fund currently displays a thermometer which shows the amount donated. So far, almost 80 per cent of the site’s goal of $100,000 has been attained. While many graduate students have benefited greatly from Harrison’s services, as ombudsperson for 14 years, Harrison helped countless students, both grad and undergrad, navigate their way through all manner of academic crises including disputed marks, disciplinary appeals, and general problems with University bureaucracy.

“Right from the day that Laurine died, there was an incredible outpouring of calls, letters, and e-mails,” said Cox. “To this day I still get letters from both parents and students.”

The Peak’s opinions section editor J.J. McCullough, who formerly served as chief electoral officer of the SFSS was Harrison’s office neighbour for two years. McCullough was incredibly moved by the commemorative event. “When you go to these kinds of memorial things it’s often a bit cheesy because everyone’s always going on and on about how great the person was. But in this case, I think the rhetoric completely matches the reality,” said McCullough. “Laurine was such an incredibly caring, warm, and maternal woman. Even when she was alive, almost everyone who came into contact with her had nothing but wonderful things to say.”

*To donate to the Laurine Harrison Endowment Fund visit www.laurineharrison.ca*

Original article at http://www.the-peak.ca/article/3992