In Celebration of Professor David Laycock’s Retirement

August 31, 2020

By Professor Anthony Perl

In September 1991, David Laycock joined Simon Fraser University’s Department of Political Science as a Canada Research Fellow and assistant professor. In the following three decades, he has enlightened colleagues, students and citizens across Canada and beyond about the influence of populism on Canadian politics, on how political ideologies have affected political parties, and on the ways in which political ideas can shape public policy.

Professor Laycock’s research contributions include eight books—ranging from sole-authored monographs, such as The New Right and Democracy in Canada: Understanding Reform and the Canadian Alliance to innovative and interdisciplinary collaborations, like his latest edited volume Political Ideology in Parties, Policy, and Civil Society: Interdisciplinary Insights. These works have shed light on the way that ideas, beliefs and practices interact and influence what is possible in politics. The knowledge generated in these volumes was complemented by articles in leading scholarly journals, such as Party Politics, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics and our discipline’s professional flagship, the Canadian Journal of Political Science. Laycock’s research was both eclectic and collaborative, and it was through such open-minded and thoughtful teamwork with colleagues at SFU and beyond that real insights were generated.

Not long after being promoted to full professor, Laycock served as department chair from 2005 through 2008. In this role, he made new colleagues feel genuinely welcome in the department, as I can personally attest. Academic stewardship of departments and programs can be a thankless task, especially when contending visions of politics and pedagogy are being vigorously contested. Laycock’s unfailing courtesy could always be counted upon to offer an example of academic professionalism during the heat of those debates. 

The most humane component of any academic legacy is generated through teaching, broadly construed. Most students come to university in dire need of inspiration, motivation and guidance on how to make the world a better place. Most faculty know this from their own experience, having been inspired, motivated and guided to a better place by their professors once upon a time. Laycock generously repaid the time and effort that had been invested by his teachers, through his memorable lectures, insightful seminars and copious caring and concern offered through student advising. 

He was always ready to make time for students, because he knew the value that such an investment could generate, and he appreciated the resulting payoff. Just like SFU’s defined contribution pension plan, not all the investments that faculty make in students will pay off, but enough of them do (in both pensions and students) to generate a brighter future. SFU’s political science faculty, staff and students celebrate Laycock’s academic achievement because we appreciate its contribution to improving our lives. We wish him many happy and healthy years of retirement ahead.