When Queen Elizabeth II officially opened UNBC on Aug. 17, 1994, Allan Stroet was a young boy, more concerned with action figures than academics.
“I wasn’t there, I just heard about it, but I thought hey, that’s pretty neat,” he says. “I was probably more interested in things like Ninja Turtles than university at the time.
While the mutant reptile craze faded away, UNBC went on to play an important part in Allan’s life.
Allan was unaware at the time that his parents Peter and Mary had been two of 16,000 people in Northern BC to donate at least $5 and sign a petition calling for the creation of a university in the region in the late 1980s. The petition was one means a citizens’ group named the Interior University Society used to show the feasibility and public support for what would become UNBC.
Peter worked for a telephone company and Mary at a family bakery in Smithers at the time. Mary says she felt having a university in Prince George just made sense.
“We supported it because it was closer to Smithers and we thought it was a good idea,” she says. “The lack of a university was really hurting Northern BC’s future. Kids were moving away and not coming back. We wanted our children to have the option to stay closer to home.”
When Allan grew old enough to start thinking of university he considered universities in the Lower Mainland, but he says he’s glad he went to UNBC in the end to earn his Bachelor of Commerce degree. He’s now an economic development officer with the Bulkley Valley Economic Development Association.
“The proximity to my hometown, the newness of the school, it being still fairly young - I liked that everything was brand new,” he says. “I was much more comfortable in a new place.”
Going to school at UNBC, less than a day’s drive from Smithers, allowed Allan to be home for weekends, holidays, and the family dinners Mary cooked when he and his brother were home.
“I think that’s a big advantage,” says Mary. “It’s close enough that they can come home, even if it’s just for Friday until Sunday, and then they can take the train back to Prince George. It was so nice to have him home regularly.”
Allan Stroet (clockwise from upper left), with his wife Mindy, father Peter, mother Mary and daughter Emma.
Allan says UNBC was a place where he never felt like just a number and where he could address his professors by their first name. Allan met his wife Mindy there who was also studying commerce, and they now have a young son and daughter. When it comes time to choose a future, he says it would be great to see them to attend UNBC as well.
“If UNBC offers what she wants to do, sure thing,” he says. “I know it’s a good school. My wife knows it’s a good school. When the 40th anniversary rolls around she’ll be ready to go there, and by then it will have expanded into something completely different than what it is now, something bigger and better, just like it’s done before.”
Were you one of the 16,000 who signed the petition? Tell us your story here: http://www.unbc.ca/25/public-campaign-update-form