"There's Something Classy About That Woodshed!" Pioneer Days at Green College - by Amy Phillips

Green College Staff

Assistant Principal Clark Lundeen, Principal Mark Vessey and Amy Phillips at the renovated GC woodshed, aka Amy Phillips Building

Being assigned to Green College as the Acting Bursar was nothing short of a miracle for me. It was the spring of 1994 and I was working at UBC’s temp agency Limited Time Only. The College had intrigued me since I first learned of it. It sounded so innovative and exciting—by far the coolest thing happening on campus at the time. The previous incumbent had departed suddenly, on what became an extended sick leave. Existing staff did what they could during her absence but there had been no-one at the administrative helm for several months when I arrived.[Editors’ note: Green College admitted its first Resident Members in the fall of 1993. These were still very early days! Over time, the role of Bursar at the College would evolve into that of Assistant Principal.]

Richard Ericson was the founding Principal. It was a real privilege to work with Richard. He was a brilliant scholar who spent mornings sequestered in his office attending to academic pursuits, only opening his door to the rest of us after returning from lunch. I was amazed that anyone could be so rigorous with their schedule! He recommended this approach to me on numerous occasions, suggesting it would allow me to get some of the administrative tasks accomplished that I lamented never getting to. I just couldn’t do it, though. Staying alert to everyone’s comings and goings, especially during those formative years, proved to be more of a draw. But despite our different styles, Richard and I were a good match.

Food was—and I’m sure remains—an important feature of the College. Richard was deeply involved in the creation of the Green College Dining Society, as were many of the founding Resident Members. It was a new idea for UBC and required quite a bit of finessing. Initially, we had catered food delivered, but getting the College’s own kitchen up and running was a priority. On one memorable afternoon I was deep in the bowels of Graham House, doing an inspection in the back rooms of the kitchen. A door closed behind me, and it wasn’t until I went to open it that I realized I was locked in. There was a small window to the outside, thank goodness! My calls for help started off modestly enough, but escalated to full-blown shouts. Eventually two women walked past and yelled back. I was finally set free, but I haven’t let a door latch behind me without checking ever since!

Construction of the residence was mostly complete when I started at the College, but there were many deficiencies to resolve during the year-long warranty period. Plant Ops staff were on site regularly, and I welcomed any advice they were willing to share. One staff member, Gray Bradwell, was a particularly helpful and patient mentor. Gray was responsible for ensuring the Building Management System (BMS) was functioning properly so that heating and other systems could be managed remotely. We ended up doing a good deal of troubleshooting together.

It was Gray I first spoke to when the woodshed idea came to mind. Dry wood was a necessity if the fireplaces in Graham House were to be used, and a woodshed was the only solution. The two of us scoped out a location and then Gray sketched a design that I presented to Richard. It all seemed very straightforward until Campus Planning got involved and decided it needed a concrete retaining wall. Needless to say, the budget skyrocketed!

When it came time for my farewell, Richard had a plaque mounted on the woodshed. I was deeply touched by both the inscription and the twinkle in his eye when he unveiled it. I still smile when I think of that day, and was delighted to reconnect with the College this past summer and see the new improvements to the Amy Phillips Building!


This is an excerpt from the 2018-19 Green College Annual Report. View a copy of the full report here: https://greencollege.ubc.ca/sites/greencollege.ubc.ca/files/2018-19_GCAnnualReport%20WEB_0.pdf

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