J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities


J.S. Woodsworth was a clergyman, social reformer, member of parliament, and founder of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and a remarkable Canadian. Early in his career he broke from the conventional role of the clergy and devoted himself to action in the world around issues of social justice, peace, and equality. His contribution to Canada continues today not only in the form of public benefits such as pensions and unemployment insurance, 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 Woodsworth Chair will combine teaching and research with active engagement in issues concerning the wider community, local and national, as well as international.

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.

J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities

Professor Eleanor Stebner, PhD, was appointed the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities in 2005. 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.


A Woodsworth Seminar is offered every academic year for undergraduates. Seminars have been offered on Activism and Hope, Jane Addams, the Nobel Peace Laureates, and Christian Thinkers of the 19th & 20th centuries, and John Amos Comenius (offered at the Prague Field School) Such seminars allow participants to study and discuss topics central to Woodsworth's life and work, and his unyielding commitment to peace, civility, compassion, and political action.

An Interfaith Institute for Peace, Justice, and Social Movements has been organized by the Woodsworth Chair. Relying on a volunteer community consultative group, the program brings together faith-based national and international leaders, activists, and academics in addressing issues as diverse as the sex trade industry and the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The most recent project has been to work with filmmaker Lisa Jackson in producing an education video called Hidden Legacies, which gives space to the survivors of the survivors of residential school to speak of their experiences. The film is being used in various educational schools and communities. It is available for purchase through Moving Images Distribution:


Stebner is currently part of the Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver Project, funded by the SSHRC Insight Grant program. The Project Advisory community is comprised of four leaders from the metro-Vancouver neighbourhood houses and five researchers from UBC, UVic, and SFU. Click here for an interactive history of neighbourhood houses in metro-Vancouver!

She continues to research and write on subjects as diverse as Jane Addams, John Amos Comenius, and ecclesiastical apologies in the 20th century.

Past Woodsworth Chairs

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 two-year term or 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.