Since 1965, Simon Fraser University athletes have worn the colours blue, red, and white.
Lorne Davies often said the blue is for Loyalty, red for Courage, white for Honesty. He would know—Davies picked them. And, come to think of it, no other individual associated with the Burnaby Mountain institution has represented those colours better than the man who chose them himself.
Born in Vancouver, Davies’ first love was football. Learning the game while playing for Ranjit Mattu’s Vancouver Blue Bombers, Davies played a key role in the Bombers’ 1947 junior Canadian football championship team, the first BC team to capture this crown. His play earned an athletic scholarship at Western Washington University and even before completing his education degree, Davies was already an experienced coach. Over his career, he coached twenty-five seasons including five with the Blue Bombers, eight with SFU as their first head coach, and six with the BC Lions as a special assistant that overlapped with their two Grey Cup appearances.
Picked over other high-profile candidates, SFU’s first chancellor Gordon Shrum hired Davies to spearhead SFU’s new athletic department in 1965. Almost immediately, Davies began masterminding some of the most forward thinking measures in Canadian university sport. Building a program of eighteen varsity sports, Davies hired full-time coaches for all sports for the first time, promoted female participation in university sport at a time when the playing fields were male dominated, and established the first national training centers located at a Canadian university (soccer, athletics, wrestling).
Under his guidance SFU was the first Canadian institution accepted into the NAIA, allowing SFU athletes further opportunities to compete. For his efforts, SFU’s gym proudly bears his name, the Lorne Davies Complex. During his thirty-year reign as athletic director, the Clan’s record of success on its own might be enough to warrant Hall of Fame induction.
Yet there’s more.
At a time when athletic scholarships were openly shunned, Davies’ design and implementation of Canada’s first university athletic awards program was truly remarkable, literally changing the face of Canadian university sport forever.
Today, most Canadian universities and colleges have adopted some form of athletic scholarship program modeled on the one Davies’ initiated at SFU. Observers can claim Canada’s best student athletes continually leave for greener pastures offered by American universities, but Davies’ work has ensured countless numbers stay at home north of the forty-ninth. One of those was a young Terry Fox, who Davies counseled and aided through his cancer treatments and subsequent Marathon of Hope.
Honours for Davies’ remarkable career have piled up over the years. Inducted into the SFU Sports Hall of Fame (1986), Western Washington University Sports Hall of Fame (1995), and Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame (2009), Davies was also awarded the Premier of British Columbia Award in 1994 and the Order of BC in 2000.
Davies later served as executive director of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award program continuing to work for the academic and athletic betterment of young Canadian student athletes.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.