J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities


J.S. Woodsworth was a clergyman, social reformer, member of parliament, and founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and a remarkable Canadian. Early in his career, he broke with the conventional role of clergy and devoted himself to action in the world around issues of social justice, peace, and equality. His legacy continues today not only in the form of public entitlements and benefits such as the CPP and EI, but more importantly, in Canadian political traditions based on equity, social obligation, and civic responsibility.

An endowment fund in the name of J.S. Woodsworth was established in 1984 as part of the Humanities Department and the Institute for the Humanities to:

  • support educational and community development efforts by individuals and groups within communities;
  • offer undergraduate courses that centre on social justice, community development and civic responsibility;
  • fund the J.S. Woodsworth Chair position in the Department of Humanities;
  • initiate in-depth and long-term research into social and cultural issues that are of central concern to the Woodsworth Program;
  • build strong ties with the community through scheduled series of symposia, workshops and conferences funded by the Endowment;
  • address directly the place of a humanistic, liberal arts education in the 21st century university and in the 21st century world of work.

The purpose of the J.S. Woodsworth Endowment is to provide for a full-time teaching position in the department of Humanities and when feasible, fund other positions and community activities in order to recognize the contributions of J.S. Woodsworth to Canada. The holder of the J.S. Woodsworth Chair or Resident Scholar combines teaching and research with active engagement on issues concerning the wider community: at local, national, and international levels.

The holder of the Woodsworth Chair works with the Director of the Institute for the Humanities and other faculty to further public understanding of the mandate.

Current Woodsworth Resident Scholar

Svend Robinson was one of the longest-serving federal Members of Parliament (MP) in British Columbia history, representing the community of Burnaby, including SFU, with the New Democratic Party for over twenty-five years (1979–2004). Since leaving federal politics, he has continued this tradition of public service internationally, and for almost a decade has worked with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, based in Switzerland. From his first election at the age of 27, Svend has charted a number of important firsts: he remains the only MP to be imprisoned for civil disobedience, at Clayoquot Sound in 1993; and was Canada’s first openly gay MP. His experiences of standing in solidarity with Cuba and the Palestinian people in occupied Israeli territory; being adopted into the Haida Nation in 1985; running for the leadership of his party in 1995; and tackling Big Pharma, bring an important perspective that will enrich ongoing discussions within and beyond the university community.

Past Woodsworth Chairs

Dr. Eleanor Stebner, 2005–2019: She came to SFU from the University of Winnipeg where she taught for ten years. Her academic areas include theology, history, and religious studies. She has published in 19th and 20th century North American women's history, settlement house and social gospel movements, religious and social institutions, and peace history.

The Hon. Edward Broadbent, 1997–1999
Dr. Alan Whitehorn, 1994–1996

Past Woodsworth Resident Scholars

Sponsored by the Department of Humanities and the Institute for the Humanities and funded by the J.S. Woodsworth Endowment, the Resident Scholar is selected for a one- or two-year term of residence.

Professor Robert J. Menzies, 2005–2007: Areas of specialty include: the sociology of law and control; critical and feminist criminology; mental disorder, criminality and law; history of mental disorder in Canada; dangerousness and violence; clinical and judicial decision-making; and crime in media. H taught in the Humanities department, organized community outreach activities in co-ordination with the Institute, and organized a 2008 conference on "Madness, Citizenship and Social Justice."

Professor Sandra Djwa, 2003–2005: A specialist in biography, autobiography and Canadian literary history, she was a member of the Department of English at SFU since 1968. She published critical editions of E.J. Pratt's poetry and biographies of F.R. Scott and, Roy Daniells—the latter, Professing English: A Life of Roy Daniells, winning the gold medal in literature from the Royal Society of Canada. (She has since completely an acclaimed biography of the poet, novelist and visual artist P.K. Page.) Professor Djwa also organized a conference on the legacy of Woodsworth in the Fall of 2005.