Faculty, staff, and students at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy are remembering Duff Spafford, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies, one of the University of Saskatchewan’s most distinguished and beloved scholars of political science. He died of a primary brain tumour on May 14, 2014 at age 78.
Duff Spafford’s contributions to the University of Saskatchewan are as numerous as they are varied. They began with his outstanding editorship of The Sheaf over half a century ago and concluded with his enthusiastic direction of a project unique among Canadian universities – the U of S Alumni Book Collection, which is housed in the Retirees Lounge of the Peter MacKinnon Building. Cheryl Avery, university archivist, once said that “the university matters to him; and it matters to him that we tell its story well. He has helped us do so.” With enormous dedication to the task, Duff determined that over 3,000 books have been written by University of Saskatchewan alumni. Almost 1,000 of those works are now housed in the Collection. Anyone who knew Duff would agree that one of his lifelong passions was words. He was the “go-to guy” on campus when disputes among professors or students needed an expert opinion on a word’s meaning, etymology, correct spelling, or proper usage.
As a political scientist, Duff brought credit to the university from an international audience. His professional colleagues in Canada, the United States, and Britain respected his meticulous scholarship. The works for which he was best known include his award-winning book (co-edited with Norman Ward) Politics in Saskatchewan; his empirically demonstrated link between the level of highway construction and the timing of provincial elections, published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science (a journal on which he later served with distinction as assistant editor); and, perhaps most important, his widely acclaimed articles on the Canadian electoral system and the “equilibrium division” of the vote. In those two articles, published a year apart in the early 1970s in the American Political Science Review, Duff’s work drew on his training in economics at the University of Saskatchewan and, as a graduate student, at the London School of Economics. Those articles were among the first to employ mathematics and statistics as analytical tools in the study of elections. Duff helped to usher in a new era in political science in Canada and in so doing brought recognition both to his own careful scholarship and to political science at the University of Saskatchewan.
All those who met Duff will fondly remember him for his wisdom, generous heart, and kind soul. We will greatly miss our colleague and dear friend.
Michael Atkinson, JSGS Executive Director
John Courtney, JSGS Policy Fellow and Professor Emeritus