Trinity Western University honours the life and legacy of Dr. Benno Friesen, who was among the founding faculty when TWU (then Trinity Junior College) first opened its doors in 1962, nearly 60 years ago.
On September 29, 2021, Dr. Benno Friesen passed away peacefully from natural causes. He was 92. Benno was among the founding faculty when Trinity Western University (then Trinity Junior College) first opened its doors in 1962, nearly 60 years ago. He served as English Literature professor and Dean of Students from 1962 – 1974. His contributions were recognized when an honourary doctorate was conferred on Benno in 1997.
TWU President Mark Husbands remarked, "Benno Friesen was a godly leader, gifted Christian educator, and principled Statesman whose life demonstrated genuine care for students, love of Canada, and winsome discipleship. His faithful investment in the lives of those around him has resulted in a rich legacy, as demonstrated by the lives and character of those whom he taught and mentored."
President Emeritus Robert G. Kuhn remembers Benno fondly as a lifelong friend and mentor. “Benno had a huge impact on me, my wife Renae and many other students who attended Trinity Western in the early years. He was a man of integrity, with a love of the written word and he modelled Christian living in a way that was so winsome students wanted to be around him. He truly loved his students and he became my all-time top mentor over many years.”
Dr. Friesen left TWU in 1974 and entered politics, successfully running for Member of Parliament for the South Surrey/White Rock constituency. After serving five terms in office, he retired in 1993 (having never been defeated) to spend more time with his wife and family.
President Kuhn believes that both Dr. Friesen and his wife Marge were responsible for much of the ultimate success of Trinity Western University. “They were fully invested in this small evangelical Christian University. Together with a small pioneering group of faculty and staff under the leadership of Dr. Calvin Hanson, they were the glue that held together a strong nucleus of leaders over the years that they served. They were unfailing in their diligence, commitment, grace, support and generosity. They did not seek out recognition for themselves, but instead they were humble and always spoke in glowing terms about the University they loved.”
Dr. Perky Vetter, member of TWU's Board of Governors and alumna from the class of 1970, said, "Benno started out as a Dean and instructor and ended up to be a friend to the end. His love and devotion for students after we left became a deep and long friendship. He was one that we always could count on for advice and support through the years. He will be truly missed.”
Norma Kennedy, friend and alumna from the class of 1969, said, "Benno was my former Dean and college professor who became a lifelong friend and mentor. Benno and Marge supported me at every significant life event including both the happy celebrations and the heartbreaks. They honoured me with their friendship. Our next 'reunion' will be a joyful celebration in heaven".
Michal Prettol Russell, alumnus from the class of 1969, remarked, "Benno was my mentor of confidence, humility and Christ-like daily living. His wisdom and kindness helped me through many years. I am blessed to have known him and his family since 1967. I am saddened he has left us all but also excited that he is in heaven!"
Late into his 80s, Dr. Friesen also remained a constant supporter of the Trinity Western Spartans, and one could find him in the stands visiting with other Spartan fans at almost every women's volleyball home game.
“He was truly a great cheerleader,” Kuhn recalls, “not just for Trinity's sports, but for the many students he taught as professor of English Literature.” In fact, it was due to Dr. Friesen’s influence that Kuhn studied English as an undergraduate major, which provided the gateway into the practice of law.
Dr. Friesen remained keenly interested in politics even after his retirement. In 2013 he delivered a speech, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the House, reflecting on the importance of inner character for success in public life, as part of Trinity Western’s 15th Annual Mel Smith Lecture series. His wonderful speech repays careful reading, and it stands as a moving testimony to a life lived well in fellowship with a loving and gracious Lord.
The Friesens’ memoir, The Ever Circling Years, is available for loan at TWU’s Norma Alloway Library.
A Celebration of Life service for Benno Friesen will be held at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey, B.C. on October 18 at 1 PM.
About Trinity Western University
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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