Photo: USRA -
Photo: USRA -

A Tribute to Duff Spafford

On May 14, 2014, the University of Saskatchewan community lost a significant member with the death of Dufferin Stewart ("Duff") Spafford, following a fourteen month battle with cancer. As a student, Duff served as editor of The Sheaf from 1956-1957. Later, in his career as a political scientist, Duff drew national and international acclaim. Closer to home, he was admired both by his peers and his students as a true proponent of "life-long learning" and "intellectual inquiry as an end in itself " (Political Studies Newsletter, Spring 2002).


The University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections staff had many opportunities to work closely with Duff Spafford over the years. Not only was he a frequent researcher, making extensive use of our collections in both his personal and professional pursuit of knowledge--he was also endlessly willing to offer us his own deep knowledge of University and provincial history. An inveterate and discerning collector, Spafford made significant contributions to the physical holdings of the University's Archives and Special Collections, offering such history-rich artifacts as samples from the once-flourishing Department of Ceramics, Canadian sheet music, historical postcards and Saskatchewan cookbooks. His bright intellectual presence within the walls of the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections will be greatly missed.

"We have come to appreciate how much his work has revealed a fuller and much more intriguing University past and how his curiosity has anticipated future interests"

-- Patrick Hayes, Archival Technician: University Archives and Special Collections


"Perhaps we can claim Duff as our favorite patron. His curiosity and excitement at discovery is always infectious, and his support especially appreciated. He has contributed much to the archives, and to the history of the University and the individuals who studied and worked here"

--  Neil Richards, Library Assistant (retired): University Archives and Special Collections


"I suspect his work on behalf of the University and . . . aspects of the University's history, are unheralded by him and unknown by many, simply given his unassuming nature. But Duff has quietly and thoroughly given us insight into aspects of our history we otherwise would have forgotten"

-- Cheryl Avery, Archivist: Universtiy Archives and Special Collections


"Duff Spafford is a fount of knowledge about university history, and especially the history and stories of university people. He takes pride especially in finding stories about unsung heroes--and it's most appropriate that another unsung hero, Duff Spafford, be recognized for his contributions"

-- Tim Hutchinson, Unit Head: University Archives and Special Collections


We would like to take this opportunity allow some of Duff's work to speak to the cumulative nature of his contributions to the University of Saskatchewan community, and to the depth and breadth of his lifelong quest for knowledge.

Alumni Book Collection


Begun in 2005, the Alumni Book Collection--also called the College Building Book Collection after the place where it is housed--is another unique initiative born from Duff Spafford's rich mind. Working with the University Archive's Cheryl Avery, English Professor Bob Calder and Alumni Relations' Melana Soroka, Duff compiled a list of over 3,000 titles representing the diverse works that have been produced by University of Saskatchewan Alumni since the school's inception. Over 450 of these titles have been gathered for the one-of-a-kind physical collection housed in the College Building, many of which were purchased and donated by Duff himself. 

Source: Wallace, Kenyon. "The College Building Book Collection." The Green and White Fall 2007.

University of Saskatchewan Ceramics Collection
Ever a hero to endangered, near-forgotten portions of institutional or local history, Duff Spafford took it upon himself to revive our knowledge of the once-flourishing University of Saskatchewan Department of Ceramic Engineering--an offshoot of the College of Engineering. Not only did he shed light on the history, origins, and purpose of this seemingly odd branch of engineering, but he also managed to collect a surprisingly large number of ceramics made within the department. Many of these ceramics are now housed within the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections, and have been featured in a digital gallery. Read Duff's article on the intriguing history of this Department of Ceramics Engineering here.
Annie Maude (Nan) McKay


Another portion of history which Duff Spafford was able to bring to light is the story of Annie Maude (AKA "Nan") McKay, a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan who worked at the University Library for 44 years. She is considered the first "Metis and first aboriginal woman" to graduate from the University. Duff's fascination with McKay's story led him to reach out to current generations of the McKay family, and resulted in a valuable collection of their family's historic papers being donated to the University. Read his article on Nan McKay here.

Alumni of Influence
Spafford's contributions to the Arts and Science Alumni of Influence selection committee were especially seen during the college's centennial year, when the committee was faced with the task of selecting 100 alumni of influence to receive the award. Duff's strong memory and impeccable research skills turned up a variety of deserving alumni whose contributions to the University may have otherwise gone unrecognized. Visit the Alumni of Influence page here.
Duff Spafford Award for Exceptional Service
The Duff Spafford Award for Exceptional Service to the University Community was established by the University of Saskatchewan Retirees Association in 2013. The award is intended to recognize U of S retirees based on their total contributions made to the university community over the course of a lifetime of campus involvement. Given the scope of Duff Spafford's contributions to the University of Saskatchewan from his early days as a student right up to his passing, it is fitting that this award bears his name. He was also the first recipient of this award, being presented with the certificate on August 2, 2013. This award bearing Spafford's name will serve as an inspiration to future generations of University of Saskatchewan retirees following Spafford's path in a lifetime of learning and fruitful Campus involvement. Read more about the Duff Spafford Award, as well as about Spafford's 2013 reception of it.
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