Student Life, Tribute

Thank you, Freddy

I first got to know Fred Vardon in my second year at McGill, after seeing him every night at 8:55 p.m. in the Islamic Studies Library. Right before closing at 9 p.m., Vardon would empty the trash can by my adopted desk on the second floor, and that was my signal to pack up and head home. Those of us with an anxious attachment to Morrice Hall—its warm nooks, high ceilings, and that one comfortable couch—may also be familiar with Vardon’s famous friendly face. For those of you who don’t know the comforts of Morrice, Vardon is the porter. After caring for the building for nearly ten years, he has become a part of its ecosystem, intertwined with every surface and wall that he wipes down. 

Vardon is retiring this September. Before he retires, I thought we’d hear some of the stories he has to tell, and how he came to form the affinity he has for McGill. Vardon, a native Montrealer, has been with McGill for 44 years and has developed a unique relationship with the student body, and many hilarious accounts attesting to McGill’s wildest years.

In an interview with The Tribune, Vardon recalled that in the ’80s there was a skiing race down McTavish and beach parties in Gerts—which, back then, occupied four floors. One morning, after a huge party, he got a call from his supervisor asking him if he had heard from the cops. When he said no, he was told that some students went into the vehicle he was working in the night before to smoke a cigarette, and lit the whole thing on fire.

“The wheel and dashboard were completely gone,” Vardon laughs. 

It’s clear that times have changed. Vardon says McGill students today are more studious than back in the ’80s and ’90s; he used to have to pick them up off the floor after their pre-finals 72-hour cram because they hadn’t gone to school all semester. Although he was never a student at McGill, Vardon has had some wild times on campus. In 1997, he had his wedding reception at the Alley, the pub that used to be in the basement of the SSMU building.

“It was an open bar, and we got all the wine bottles for $5 […] it was fun,” Vardon said. It was also catered by McGill Food Services, where he worked at the time, before becoming a porter in 1999. 

Despite the roar of the late ’80s and early ’90s, one of Vardon’s most cherished memories is when a student he knew became valedictorian. In her speech, she gave Vardon a shout-out, saying she couldn’t have made it without him feeding her and making her smile along the way. Vardon tells me that every year, he gets to know the ten students who run the theatre next to his office on Morrice Hall’s first floor. When his favourite barbeque place, Bar/B Barn, was still around, Vardon used to bring ribs for everyone on the closing night of the play. 

Vardon’s memories reflect his fondness for the McGill community and the kindness he has shared with students throughout the years. His favourite spot in Morrice is the Islamic Studies lounge because that’s where he has said he has made many friends. Sumaria Nawaz, a Ph.D. student at the Institute who frequents the lounge, elaborated on Vardon’s connection with the student body. 

“I can’t imagine a day [when] he didn’t beam at me and ask me how my day was going,” she told //The Tribune//

As his time at McGill comes to an end, Vardon reflected on how Morrice Hall has been a “pleasant place to work, where the librarians, students, professors, and staff are all like one big family.”

For Vardon, Morice Hall’s diversity, and the network of care it sustains, make it a great place which “the whole world can take […] as an example.” He feels that “if the world was like that one fucking building, it would be a better place.” If it weren’t for his arthritis, Vardon says he wouldn’t leave. 

Vardon’s love for McGill and its students reminds us all to cherish the memories we have made and are making at McGill. His message to the McGill student body is: “Keep studying, work hard, make your parents proud, and I am going to miss everybody.” On behalf of the McGill student body (especially us Morrice Hall regulars), I can assure you Freddy, we’ll miss you too!

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