Remembering Jane Banfield (1930 – 2016)

We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jane Banfield. Jane passed away peacefully on February 6, 2016 after a short battle with cancer.

A cherished member of the WUSC family, over the years Jane has been both a valued staff member and a passionate supporter of our work.

Jane Banfield

Born in Vancouver, Jane’s history with WUSC began when as a student in 1953, when she participated in WUSC’s 6th International Seminar to India, a time which she said “changed her life”. A year later, Jane completed her law degree from the University of British Columbia – one of five women in her graduating class.

In 1955 Jane joined WUSC as the Assistant Secretary-General. Between 1955 and 1958 Jane worked closely with former Secretary-General for WUSC, Lewis Perinbam. She played a pivotal role in WUSC’s early years through her encouragement of our incorporation as a non-profit NGO in 1957.

During her time at WUSC, Jane co-led International Seminars and study tours to Japan (1955), the Caribbean (1955), Germany (1956) and Ghana (1957). Many WUSC alumni from the 1950s will remember Jane for her involvement in the 1957 International Seminar to Ghana. With Lewis Perinbam, Jane co-led a team of Canadian youth, including former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and former Solicitor-General and creator of CSIS Robert Kaplan, supporting them to engage in discussions with their peers on pressing issues for international development.

In an interview with WUSC in 2005, Jane said “I joined WUSC in Toronto in the summer of 1955 as a staff member for 3 years and later went onto an academic career initially based on African politics, a direct result of the 1957 Ghana seminar.  WUSC seminars were an essential element in my development.”

Jane left WUSC to pursue an MA from the University of Toronto and later a doctorate in political science from the London School of Economics. She taught in Montreal, Toronto and then York University where she stayed for 30 years, becoming Professor Emerita and founder of the York Law and Society Program.

Jane Banfield

Over the years, Jane continued to support WUSC as both a champion for international development issues and passionate supporter of WUSC’s work.

In 1956, Jane helped Ian MacDonald (former President of York) to bring 182 Hungarian refugee students to come to re-settle and study on Canadian campuses. President MacDonald later named Jane York University’s first advisor on the status of women. Jane retired in 2004 and brought her passion and dedication back to Vancouver.

Over the many years since her time at WUSC, Jane stayed connected to many WUSC alumni and seminar participants. Her thoughtfulness, warmth, generosity and passion for WUSC can be found throughout note cards and letters in our alumni archives. Jane, you will remain in our hearts forever, with your commitment, accomplishments and voice deeply embedded in our history.

Here is what friends and colleagues have to say about Jane:

“Jane Banfield was, for me, one of the special people in WUSC 1957. I, along with five others, had chosen to travel in Nigeria, in a VW van, with an African driver before our gathering in Accra.  On that trip, we were stopped by a white police officer who accosted our driver belligerently and proceeded to look for some minor neglect in the maintenance of our vehicle.

As we observed what was happening, some of us wanted to intervene on behalf of the driver whom we had come to know fairly well. Jane’s calm and more mature disposition saved us from making a serious incident worse,” (Weldon Burlock)

Jane Banfield