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The singing Janitor

Ted Sinnott, the Ambassador of Good Cheer, pictured in 1971
Ted Sinnott, the Ambassador of Good Cheer, pictured in 1971

Many alumni may remember Ted Sinnott, the beloved Convocation Mall janitor. Fondly known as the “singing janitor,” Ted was a cherished member of the SFU community who had a song and smile for everyone. It was said that he was “written into the university’s cleaning contracts.” Even as the contracts changed hands, Ted would remain.

Born in Liverpool in 1894 during the reign of Queen Victoria, Ted spent many years working on the docks, just as his father did before him. He and his wife Elizabeth were married in 1914 and had four children before their wonderful life together ended in 1957 with Elizabeth’s passing.

In 1964, Ted decided to leave England and join his daughter Betty in North Vancouver. Five years later, he arrived at SFU at the age of 75—and proceeded to capture everyone’s heart.

On two occasions, Ted was celebrated with surprise birthday parties. When he turned 78, for example, SFU students baked 78 cakes in his honour. Ted also received the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal and SFU’s C.D. Nelson Award for his outstanding contributions to the university.

In 1981, the Ted Sinnott Memorial Fund was established at SFU in his memory. The award was to be given to a student who made voluntary contributions to enrich the university community—embodying the cheer and goodwill that Ted represented for many at SFU during his tenure.

Today, the award continues to be distributed to one student every year, making Ted a lasting and unforgettable part of SFU history.


Remembering Ted


“I was an undergrad at SFU from 1974-1977 and remember him as well. Such a positive attitude toward his work. Was a treat to see him each day.” – Robert W.

“I was at SFU from 1968-1972. Seeing him always brought a smile to my face!” – Klaus S.

“This guy made my day, every day. He was always so warm and friendly. He was the grandpa I never had. I lived on SFU residence from 1971-1974. I was from Toronto, so knew nobody when I started. Having him around made SFU a kinder place.” – Lydia B.


Image IMC_71159-010 and 012, SFU Archives reference and display materials collection (F-247)

This story is part of our winter 2023 edition of Engage, our magazine celebrating the impact of SFU’s donor community.
To read more stories, please visit the 
Engage landing page.