School of Criminology

In memory of Robert M. Gordon

April 30, 2024

The School of Criminology is deeply saddened to announce the passing of professor emeritus Robert Gordon on April 25, 2024. Rob was a key figure in shaping the School as it is today and his contributions will be felt for years to come.

Known affectionally by some as “the captain”, Rob held several pivotal roles during his time at Simon Fraser University, including a six-year stint as associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), and 15 years as the director of the School of Criminology. He was also a founding director of the International Cybercrime Research Centre, co-founder of the Centre for Restorative Justice, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Forensic Research.

As associate dean, Rob was instrumental in the start-up of the FASS One program for first-year students and shepherded the creation of the Department of World Languages and Literatures. He also designed, implemented and directed the University’s highly-renowned Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies program.

Outside SFU, Rob was a consultant to different levels of government in Canada and beyond, serving on advisory boards and panels dealing with a range of legal and criminal issues, such as adult guardianship, adult protection, and mental health law. Rob worked tirelessly for many years in drafting legislation in B.C., Yukon, and other Canadian jurisdictions, as well as working on similar reforms in Eastern Europe on behalf of the Council of Europe. In 2013, the Governor General of Canada awarded him the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work on these issues.

He was also a prolific writer, having authored numerous books, book chapters, journal articles, and official reports on youth crime and youth gangs, adult guardianship law, adult protection law, health law, the abuse and neglect of the elderly, and restorative justice. He was a member of several professional associations including the American Society of Criminology and the Western Society of Criminology.

Well-known as British Columbia’s go-to expert for analysis on crime and policing, Rob became a sought-after voice for all major Canadian and international news outlets over the years. Whether he was out on his tractor or taking a well-deserved vacation, Rob was always quick to pick up the phone or return an email when a reporter contacted him. With more than 1,500 media mentions, he received his first SFU Newsmaker Award in 2007 and a Lifetime Achievement Award later in 2023.

Although he will be deeply missed, Rob Gordon's contributions to the School of Criminology and Simon Fraser University will keep his spirit alive. We extend our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to professor Gordon's family and friends during this difficult time.

Tribute messages

The memory of Robert Gordon will be cherished by those who knew him, including his colleagues, students, and friends. If you wish to share a message of condolence, please send an email to

It is with deep and heartfelt sadness that I learned of the passing of Dr. Rob Gordon. While Rob was a great scholar, commentator and a person who provided great service to SFU, what I will remember most about Rob was the great down-to-earth human being he was. Rob was a great friend to me and the SFU Surrey campus. In meetings and gatherings, he would make us laugh, he would hold us accountable and he would pat you on the back when he saw a job well done. Rob may be gone but his legacy and influence will forever be with me.

Steve Dooley, Executive Director, SFU Surrey.

Though I only knew Professor Gordon superficially, his kindness, warmth and sincerity were immediately palpable. His vocational and allied accomplishments speak for themselves. Certainly, his rich legacy and proactive ambitions live on in those many students and colleagues whose studies and work he helped shape and enrich.

Gary Brown, former SFU Distance Education student

I had the good fortune of knowing Rob when we were fledgeling graduate students in sociology at the University of British Columbia in the early 1980s. I was amazed that he could fit his frame into a tiny midget MG sports car!  There was more amazement to follow. 

Rob demonstrated his leadership skills throughout the program, whether representing the departmental graduate students’ association, standing on principle for students, staff and students alike, encouraging us by example, and generous sharing of his time and skills.  He and I were office mates, drawing on one another’s humour, problem-solving, and shared commitment to seeing this doctoral program through.

We had a good fortune of securing tenure-track positions at SFU, thereby continuing our close friendship as colleagues from any decades. Once again, Rob stepped up as a leader in many roles, most significantly IMHO as a longtime Director of the School of Criminology. Devoted husband, father, colleague and friend, he has left a formidable legacy for the School and many other sectors. I will miss his friendship and comradeship. 

Brian Burtch, professor emeritus, Criminology, and former associate member, Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies, SFU 

Rob Gordon was a force to be reckoned with in so many ways. In addition to being a dedicated teacher, prolific scholar and omnipresent media commentator, he was a major contributor to the life of SFU in his multiple roles as an academic administrator, member of the Senate and other bodies, and institutional sage. As President, I could always count on Rob for insight and advice which he dispensed with good humour and generosity. And while he took it upon himself to jokingly refer to me as “boss,” I never doubted who in the university truly merited the right to be called “captain.” 

Andrew Petter, CM, OBC, KC, president emeritus, professor emeritus, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University

I send my condolences to Rob’s family, friends and colleagues. I worked with him for many years when I was dean and vice-president academic, and he contributed so much to SFU. Beyond his research and teaching he gave his time selflessly to collegial governance of the School of Criminology and FASS, as well as his work in Senate. He was very influential in developing and administering policy in areas of student discipline. Rob exemplified SFU’s commitment to the broader community and it sometimes seemed that he was CBC’s resident broadcaster on crime.

Rob was a wonderful person to work with. He was thoughtful and thorough and tried to see all sides of an issue. His kindness shone through his rather gruff exterior. He had a great sense of humour and approached running a university with a twinkle in his eye and a kindly mockery of the foibles of senior administrators.

Jon Driver, professor emeritus, Department of Archaeology

I am so sorry to hear of Rob Gordon’s passing, and my heartful condolences go out to his family, friends, colleagues and all those whose lives he touched. Over the years I relied on Rob’s wise counsel, and I was fortunate enough to work on the foundation he laid across so many programs and activities in FASS. Rob had a way of cutting to the heart of an issue (there is NO space), but always with humour and never unkindly. Rob was also a leader in my hometown, New Westminster, where his legacy lives on various civic and charitable organizations. Cheers Rob, and thank you.

Peter Hall, vice-provost and associate vice-president, academic, professor of urban studies, SFU

As the director of the then-World Literature Program and the founding Chair of WLL, I benefited from Associate Dean Gordon’s support over several years. Without his ongoing help in merging the Language Training Institute and the World Literature Program, we wouldn’t have the lovely department we have today. His support was invaluable to the department, and to me personally, and I’ll never forget it.

Melek Ortabasi, associate dean, undergraduate programs, teaching and learning, and student experience, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Such a loss. I can only fathom the amount of students and colleagues that feel this. I can still remember his voice so clearly and the accompanying eyebrow lift. He trusted my abilities, my intelligence and my commitment to the school. For that, I am forever grateful. Condolences to family and friends. His light will never dim and his voice echoing wisdom and confidence never waiver.

Jacqueline Faubert, PhD Crim

I was very saddened and shocked to learn of Rob Gordon's death. The notion of a world without Rob in it had never occurred to me, to be honest.

Always larger than life, Rob made a big impression when we first met at one of the annual gatherings of the Western deans' group. We had many memorable conversations over the years, particularly around the never-dull topic of academic integrity.

My condolences to Rob's friends and family. I had not seen him in a while and now I'm really going to miss him.

Julia Denholm, dean, Lifelong Learning, Simon Fraser University 

Rob Gordon was a true character. You sensed his presence when he entered a room. Larger than life, with piercing eyes, Rob was a man of great impression. During meetings and discussions, Rob was candid and pragmatic yet respectful and personable. Some individuals were ruffled by his no-nonsense, honest approach. When placed in command, he was an outstanding "Captain" navigating many stormy seas and troubled waters with ease. The School of Criminology was very fortunate to have him at the helm for so many years.

He gave so much of his time and energy into fostering positive change.  Rob really put his heart into the organization and.....into people. He cared. His influence was great and I know he will missed by many.

Rick Parent, police officer and associate professor (ret.), School of Criminology

I am saddened to hear of Rob Gordon’s passing. I first met him while I was a visiting professor of criminology at SFU in the early 1980s. He asked me to supervise a reading course in the Sociology of Law for his Ph.D. program. I happily did and realized that a student with his intelligence, wit, great social skills and ambition would do very well in his subsequent career.  He hit the ball out of the park in his career as a scholar, leader and someone concerned about connecting academics with real-world change and social justice. Over the decades I have had the good fortune to get together with him and it was always a delight.  He will be sorely missed by many.

Chuck Reasons, professor emeritus, Law and Justice, Central Washington University

Rob and I met when we were 16 years old and joined the Metropolitan Police cadets in London, UK, an educational and apprentice program for policing. We trained together and, at 19 years old, we became constables on the streets of London. He was stationed in North London, and I was in the centre of town.  We met frequently to chat about our lives as young constables dealing with the rigours of London in the 60s.

After a few years, I decided to move to Vancouver and joined the Vancouver Police Department. Robert departed the UK to join the Hong Kong Police. Discretion, and self-preservation, being the better part of valour, he moved on to Australia and joined the Melbourne Police. Our discussions of policing now broadened to an international perspective.

Our lives continued a parallel course. Rob left the police and attended Monash University in Melbourne and I moved on to UBC, Cambridge, and Sheffield Universities.

On one of our international chats, he spoke of the desire to move. I described the many attractions of Vancouver and the then-somewhat-new Simon Fraser University with its Criminology Department. He applied and was accepted. 

Rob and I spent many hours hiking in the North Shore mountains. Our frequent stops were because of laughter rather than the gruelling terrain. They were fun times.

These were the early days of police research and governance of police. Our more cerebral moments were spent on discussion of how policing could be enhanced; how the police could be made part of the weft and weave of the community, to support public safety.   

I would like to think that these early discussions as young constables in London and, decades later, as we hiked, laid the foundation for Rob’s stellar academic career.  His collegial approach and his observations and insights on policing issues will be missed.

Keith Taylor

I was so saddened to hear of Rob’s passing and send condolences to his family and friends. Rob made a huge contribution in the early days of SFU Surrey in developing programs and also organizing community lectures and events. I was glad we awarded him a 2023 Newsmaker of the Year which should have happened earlier given his responsiveness and dedication in responding to media requests and making himself available.  Rob had great presence but didn’t take himself too seriously with a twinkle in his eye and a sense of humour. He will be missed.

Joanne Curry , VP External Relations

I knew Rob for at least twenty years and worked closely with him for 15 of those.  We were born in the same county, Devonshire, in England though I am a mite older and I remember the connection he made through his rendition of a Devonshire country farmer dialect – a reminder of my own happenstance meetings in country lanes way back then. He was a magisterial role model and as a Literature lecturer in English and a Distance administrator, he put me to work on the Criminology distance program that began in the 2006 period. Under his baton, the program was highly successful and ran for years, helping many actively working in the field to study criminology at SFU and to work at the same time. In addition, he was instrumental in starting SFU Publications,  a publisher of texts for classroom and other uses that is yet running in FASS. He and other stellar members comprised the SFU Publications board.  He and I also liked flying,  and my one regret is that we never flew together. I miss him deeply and have a hard time imagining SFU without him.  Rob was a model of leadership and humanity.

John Whatley, Associate Member School of Criminology (ret) & Department of English (ret)