School of Criminology

In memory of professor emeritus Simon Verdun-Jones

August 23, 2023

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of a beloved member of our community —Professor emeritus Simon Verdun-Jones passed away on August 21st, 2023, after a valiant battle with cancer. His contributions to Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology and the field of criminology will continue to inspire future generations of students.

Professor Verdun-Jones was instrumental in the development of SFU’s School of Criminology. He was part of the department’s transition to a fully-fledged school in 1985, and twice served as its chair and director. He played a pivotal role in expanding SFU Criminology by bringing on board over 30 highly qualified faculty members, thanks to his exceptional leadership skills, unwavering dedication, and clear vision for the future.

With a passion for studying the connection between crime and mental health, professor Verdun-Jones dedicated his research to this intersection. He was a vocal advocate for individuals with mental disorders and was critical of the way police interact with this vulnerable population.

As an educator, professor Verdun-Jones was outstanding. He mastered the art of engaging students through his energetic and enthusiastic lectures and seminars. His exceptional teaching abilities awarded him SFU’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004. Through his years of service, professor Verdun-Jones also served as senior supervisor, guiding about 50 graduate and honours students in completing their theses.

After his retirement in 2019, a Japanese maple tree was planted in the Saywell Hall courtyard to honour and commemorate his many contributions. Though simple, the plaque installed next to the tree symbolizes the School’s great affection and gratitude toward him. The dedication on the plaque ends with the Italian phrase, ancora imparo (Still, I am learning), a philosophy aptly personified by professor Verdun-Jones.

Although professor Verdun-Jones will be deeply missed by many of us at the School of Criminology, his incredible spirit, kindness, and legacy will undoubtedly endure. We are fortunate to have been touched by such a remarkable individual, and his memory will continue to inspire us for years to come. Our thoughts and heartfelt condolences go out to professor Verdun-Jones’ family and friends during this difficult time.

Tribute messages

"I was so sad to read that Prof. Verdun-Jones has passed. He was an absolutely immense influence on me and I can say without hyperbole that he is the reason I am a lawyer. 

In my second year of undergrad, taking a course with Prof. Verdun-Jones, he asked me after class if I was going to be taking the LSAT and applying to law school. It had never occurred to me before that moment, but Prof. Verdun-Jones was insistent that that is where my skills lie and the path I should pursue. I followed his advice, moving on to the University of Victoria Faculty of Law and then being called to the Bar in early 2005. I have practised with the government of BC for 18 years now and work in groundbreaking areas relating to legal pluralism with Indigenous laws, civil and criminal law reform, and access to justice."

Natalie Hepburn Barnes, Executive Director of Civil and Criminal Policy and Legislation, BC Ministry of Attorney General. Victoria, B.C.

“He was one of the best professors I've ever had. He genuinely cared about helping us develop more critical thinking skills and took the time to get to know his students. He is known for his brilliance but I will forever remember him for his incredible kindness. Simon, you will be missed." 

Vienna Lam, PhD student

"Dr. Verdun Jones was one of my favourite professors in my study.  He was kind and engaging with foreign students like me. His criminal justice system course enriched my understanding. May God comfort his family in this difficult time."

Kim Ho LI, 86' graduate

"What tremendous contributions and what a huge loss. Simon inspired me. May he rest peacefully."

Howard Sapers

"To say that Simon was dedicated to his work as a scholar, administrator, teacher and mentor is an understatement. His kindness, loyalty and accomplishments were part of his decades of service to SFU and to scholarship. To this day I am grateful for his support and guidance when I was a fledgling sessional instructor in Criminology in 1980. Simon's support continued as I became a full-time member of the School, one of many professors and administrative staff who became part of the School through his leadership.
He has left a remarkable legacy for us.

I also knew the off-campus side of Simon as a friend. First and foremost, Simon was devoted to his family. He also had a deep knowledge of music and literature, an incisive wit, and he demonstrated exceptional courage over years of illness. Condolences and warm wishes to Simon's family, friends and colleagues."

Brian Burtch, Professor Emeritus, SFU' School of Criminology

"Prof. Verdun-Jones gave so much to so many. For those of us fortunate to know him, Prof. Verdun-Jones was a kind and compassionate man as well as a brilliant scholar. His contributions to the academic world and the School of Criminology at SFU are enormous and well documented.

I first met Prof. Verdun-Jones as a patrol officer, while I was working towards completing my undergrad degree. He soon became an inspiration and a mentor in the completion of my graduate degrees and later, my career within the academic world. If you knew "Simon" you knew what a "great guy" that he was; he had an excellent sense of humor, an ability to read people and sum them up with candid comments. You also quickly realized how deeply he cared about his students and his family. He often spoke of the importance of family and how much his family meant to him. Simon endlessly devoted his time and energy to the two things he loved dearly in his life, his family and his students. Thank you Simon, for always making time for people and for giving so much to others."

Rick Parent, Police officer and Criminologist (ret)

"Simon was a brilliant, passionate and dedicated mentor. He was also one of the most compassionate people I have ever known. Simon was my MA Supervisor and became a dear friend. Simon had a wealth of knowledge about so many things - art, music, movies, politics, geography. I loved chatting with him over a tea and banana bread at Lonsdale Quay or on a North Shore hike. He cared deeply about contributing to work that would improve the lives of people with mental illness. It was my work with Simon that inspired me to pursue an academic career focusing on the intersections of mental health and the criminal justice system. May he rest easy. My heartfelt condolences to Simon's family, friends, students and colleagues." 

Amanda Butler, Assistant Professor, SFU School of Criminology

"I still vividly recall my first class with Dr. Verdun-Jones in CRIM 230: Introduction to Criminal Law. His energy in his lectures and polished delivery to engage students was unmatched and will forever be memorable. I knew Dr. Verdun-Jones as a great person, instructor and lecturer. Reading others’ messages about him and the quality of his character brings me no surprise given the pleasure I had in my experiences with him as one of his former pupils. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and other loved ones in the midst of this difficult time, and may his legacy live on."

Colin Wong

"I will always cherish my time as one of Simon’s graduate students and his belief in my abilities. He cared deeply for his students, and it was both rare and heartening to see how much they adored him.

Simon was an exceptional professor and a true trailblazer who paved the way for mental health research and understanding in an untraditional space like criminal justice.

May that spirit of open-mindedness, conscientiousness, and kindness live on in his good name and hard work."


Tanya N. Miller, MA '16, Mental Health and Justice Policy Consultant

"Simon was an integral and much valued part of my experiences with the SFU School of Criminology. In the early 2000s he invited me to teach a class with him titled “Crime and Literature” and it was a success. As well as being a well-known and extraordinarily adept legal scholar, Simon was a formidable teacher and analyst of the transgressions that appear in the literary text, from Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Atwood, and Ondaatje to Ruth Rendell and P.D. James. His students respected and admired him in this and enjoyed our interpretive clashes and arguments. He was erudite in both the law and literature. His range was sometimes overwhelming and his precise memory of  literary characters and events extraordinary. Over the years we became good friends and I learned a great deal about life, literature, the law and the legal mind from him. I will deeply miss his wit, his wisdom, erudition and humour and his friendship."

John Whatley,  Dept of English (retired)

"I knew Simon years ago, principally through his volunteer work with the Lower Mainland Purpose Society. Though much time has passed since then, since we served on the Board together, I have no difficulty recalling how bright and observant Board member he was and how the then fledgling Society benefited from his contributions.

Farewell, Simon."

Bill Engleson, RSW (Retired and Non-Practicing)

"I remember my time at SFU fondly, in large part because of professors like Simon Verdun-Jones. It was clear that he loved what he did and he took a genuine interest in students. I remember him asking me about carrying my lacrosse stick around between classes, and remember the inspiration he gave about exploring the law."

Peter Schmidt, Lawyer (1999 SFU BA grad)

"My condolences go out to Simon's family and colleagues. Simon was a strong supporter of graduates and undergraduates in the early days of the Crim department. I had the privilege of being his research assistant in my time as a graduate student. May he rest in peace."

David Horne, BA, MA (Crim)

"Simon was instrumental in the development of a new generation of scholars. He modeled such a beautiful combination of kindness, wit, and intellect. He will be dearly missed, but his values and talents live on through us. My condolences to his loved ones."

Jamie Livingston, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Saint Mary University.

SFU Class of 2001 (MA) & 2011 (PhD)