Brock mourns retired History professor

The Brock community lost an important figure this week with the death of John Sainsbury, retired Professor Emeritus in the Department of History. Sainsbury, who died Tuesday, Nov. 14, was 71.“John Sainsbury was an erudite and witty colleague. He was an important contributor to the growth of the Department of History, the Faculty of Humanities and Brock University. He will be sorely missed,” says Carol Merriam, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.Born in England, Sainsbury came to Canada in the late 1970s to complete a PhD at McGill after having obtained his BA and MA at Cambridge.His first book, Disaffected Patriots, made a major contribution to research on English sympathizers of the American Revolution, while his second book was a biography of John Wilkes and received high praise for the deep look it took at Wilkes’ life.As a department chair, the first-ever Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research for the Faculty of Humanities and a Brock Senator, Sainsbury was a powerful voice throughout his career with the ability to push colleagues to take the right course of action.“John was a leader, a mentor and a friend,” said Daniel Samson, Chair of the Department of History. “He was savvier and funnier than most of us combined. We will miss him enormously.”Jane McLeod, who followed Sainsbury as department chair, said he was a key figure in moving the department forward to become a major research centre. “His imagination and drive made the department forward looking on all fronts,” she said.Sainsbury was a respected teacher whose courses on British history were popular and his seminars on witchcraft and libertinism offered students powerful introductions to important topics. Several of his students went on to complete PhDs.His career took him to many places — from teaching at McGill, Brown, Western and the American University in Cairo, he also worked as a reporter for several years at the National Examiner. While many academics might have buried this detail as an unfortunate low-point in his search for a university job, Sainsbury relished it, telling many wonderful stories and reminding his colleagues that none of them ever got to make up their own facts.Everyone who knew Sainsbury also knew his wife, Lisa. Their dinners were legendary, the conversations always engaging and the evenings long. The couple made people feel welcome.Sainsbury was also a mentor, assisting new arrivals to Brock over the years.“John and Lisa were two of the first people to make us feel like members of the Brock community,” said Professor Andrew McDonald, who came to Brock in 2002. “We were struck by their warmth, sincerity, compassion and humanity.”Sainsbury is predeceased by his wife Lisa. He is survived by sons Edward and Ben.A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. at the Hulse and English Funeral Home and Chapel in St. Catharines.

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