J. S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities

James Shaver Woodsworth (1874–1942) was a clergyman, social reformer, member of parliament, and founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in 1932, 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.

Social reform

About the endowment


The holder of the Woodsworth Chair or Resident Scholar combines teaching and research with active engagement on issues concerning the wider community at local, national, and international levels by:

  • Supporting educational and community-development efforts by individuals and groups within communities.
  • Offering undergraduate courses that centre on social justice, community development, and civic responsibility.
  • Funding the J. S. Woodsworth Chair position in the Department of Global Humanities.
  • Initiating in-depth and long-term research into social and cultural issues that are of central concern to the Woodsworth Program.
  • Building strong ties with the community through scheduled series of symposiums, workshops, and conferences funded by the Endowment.
  • Directly addressing the place of a humanistic, liberal arts education in the 21st century university and in the 21st century world of work.

Established in 1984, the purpose of the J. S. Woodsworth Endowment is to provide for a full-time teaching, research, and community engagement position in the formerly-named 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 Woodsworth legacy is tied not to specific projects or themes, but rather to moral courage, social sympathies, passion for truth, and intellectual pioneering in the pursuit of social progress, education, and empowerment. 

Chair-holders and Resident Scholars

Current J. S. Woodsworth Chair

The position is currently vacant. Please check back later.

Past J. S. Woodsworth Chairs

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.

Dr. Eleanor Stebner (2005–2019)

Dr. Eleanor Stebner came to SFU from the University of Winnipeg where she taught for ten years. Her academic research areas include theology, history, and religious studies. She has published on 19th and 20th century North American women's history, settlement house and social gospel movements, religious and social institutions, and peace history. She is currently the Simons Fellow and teaches in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

The Honourable Edward Broadbent (1997–1999)

Dr. Ed Broadbent was first elected to Parliament in 1968 and served as an MP for 21 years, 14 of which were spent as leader of the New Democratic Party. During his time in Ottawa, his focus was on Aboriginal and economic rights, women’s equality, child poverty, ethics in government, and tax equality. He also has a PhD in Political Theory, taught at several prestigious universities, and founded the Broadbent Institute in 2011.

Dr. Alan Whitehorn (1994–1996)

Dr. Alan Whitehorn was the first holder of the Woodsworth Chair and taught six undergraduate courses in Humanities, appeared regularly in the local media, spoke in the community and at SFU, and organized several public events on themes related to “Problems and Prospects of Social Democracy“ and “Women in Politics” during his tenure. He is also an emeritus professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Past J. S. Woodsworth Resident Scholars

Sponsored by the Department of Global 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.

Svend Robinson (2020–2021)

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). Along with his public-outreach activities, he also taught a seminar on his political life and a wide range of issues including Indigenous rights, international human rights, and sexual freedom. He is currently an Associate of the Institute.

Dr. Robert J. Menzies (2005–2007)

Dr. Menzies is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at SFU and specializes in history of psychiatry and public health; law, governance, and social control; and qualitative research methods, to name a few. During his tenure as Resident Scholar, he taught in Humanities, organized community outreach activities in co-ordination with the Institute, and organized a 2008 conference on "Madness, Citizenship and Social Justice."

Dr. Sandra Djwa (2003–2005)

Dr. Djwa is Professor Emeritus of English at SFU and specializes in biography, autobiography, and Canadian literary history. As Resident Scholar, she organized a conference on the legacy of Woodsworth in the Fall of 2005. Since her tenure, she was made a lifetime member of the Royal Society of Canada in 2019 and named to the Order of Canada in 2020 for her contributions to the fields of Canadian literature and Canadian literary criticism.

Dr. Paul Budra (1991–1992)

Dr. Paul Budra teaches Shakespeare and early modern literature in the Department of English at SFU, and has published articles on Renaissance literature and contemporary popular culture. He is a past president of the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society, former Chair of English Department, former Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and winner of the SFU Excellence in Teaching Award for 2004. As Resident Scholar, he coordinated the J. S. Woodsworth Colloquium on the Bible.

Dr. Alan Rudrum (1989–1990)

Dr. Alan Rudrum is Professor Emeritus of English at SFU who specializes in literary criticism and history, John Milton, and Henry and Thomas Vaughan. His Festschrift, "Of Paradise and Light: Essays on Henry Vaughan and John Milton in honor of Alan Rudrum," was published by Associated University Press in 2004. He was the first J. S. Woodsworth Resident Scholar and later returned to participate in the J. S. Woodsworth Colloquium on the Bible in 1992.