Christopher Gaze set to host SFU’s 50th anniversary

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lim Photography.

As our university approaches its 50th anniversary celebration on September 9th, The Peak caught up with the emcee of the evening, Christopher Gaze, founder and artistic director of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than people having a good time,” he says, in anticipation of the event.

Gaze received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts in October 2006, and, as he recalls, “it was the most extraordinary moment of my life when the president called me and told me that I was going to receive the honorary degree. [. . .] I have everything to be grateful for SFU to honour me in that way.”

Having hosted hundreds of events including concerts for the Vancouver Symphony and their popular Tea & Trumpets series, Christopher Gaze considers himself highly experienced in being able to link things together, especially at events that could end up not particularly lively or fun. He wants to use his humour and fun to make sure people are happy at any event he hosts.

Gaze’s many honours include Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal (2004), Honorary Doctorates from UBC (2008) and SFU (2006), the Mayor’s Arts Award for Theatre (2011), and the Order of British Columbia (2012).

Being at the helm of Bard on the Beach for 26 years (and counting), Gaze feels comfortable in front of crowds. Public speaking does not scare him, he says, as he welcomes the Bard audiences night after night before each show. 

Gaze is grateful to have learnt good graces and manners from his family, which he deems as a valuable asset in guiding an evening of introducing, welcoming, thanking, and recognising various people. He does all this with humour and a lot of heart. “Being an emcee is sort of like being in a certain league of all-rounders, and I like to always do my best,” he said.

When asked what attendees of the SFU 50th anniversary celebration can expect from him, Gaze promised, “conviviality, fun, clear direction, and I will provide all that I can in celebratory remarks and joy in accomplishment of SFU over 50 years and looking forward to the next 50 years.” And he assured that he can entertain: “I have managed to convince a lot of people over a lot of years that I can inject humour, lightness, perhaps a bit of profundity when required, and maybe the odd anecdote which amuses.”

Gaze subscribes to Noel Coward’s notion of joy, which says “if all I have is a talent to amuse, then that is all right.” He hopes to keep the evening joined together in an elegant fashion to celebrate SFU, saying “It is marvellous what SFU has accomplished, clearly delineating their brand of university, reaching great heights of intellectual capacity and exploration. It is really remarkable how they have achieved that over 50 years in its unique location. It is something to celebrate and recognise and where people should want to come to achieve great things.

“That’s what SFU is — a very grassroots and imaginative university.”