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Section Header
Professor contributes passion to lives of UA students, faculty

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Professor J. Douglas Canfield sits next to his breathing machine while teaching his general education class.
By Tessa Hill
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday February 24, 2003

A love for the Southwest originally brought Professor J. Douglas Canfield to the UA, but his love for his students is what keeps him here.

Canfield, 62, an English and Regent Professor, came to the UA in 1974, and in his 29 years as a professor has contributed in various ways to the university.

Some colleagues say that Canfield's commitment to his students, as well as his passion and love for human rights, civil liberties, restoration drama and comparative literature make him a true asset to the university.

"He is as complete a faculty member as I've ever known," said the Dean of the College of Humanities Charles Tatum, who has known and worked with Canfield for 17 years.

Tatum said Canfield's best qualities are his passionate energy for all things and his curiosity in new areas of learning.

And Canfield's lifestyle, ambition and devotion to students have not been slowed since being diagnosed with a terminal disease just two years ago. The disease, Idiopathic-Pulmonary Fibrosis, requires Canfield to carry an oxygen tank with him at all times. His students and colleagues are constantly amazed at the fast pace and full teaching schedule he has been able to maintain despite his illness.

"He teaches five days a week, that's almost unheard of because simply with his seniority, he could have a two day a week schedule," Tatum said.

Canfield graduated from the University of Notre Dame majoring in great books. He attended both Johns Hopkins and Yale University before receiving his Ph.D from the University of Florida.

Although he is an authoritarian in the field of restoration drama, he has had several sparked interests in other areas take him elsewhere in his career.

Canfield's fascination with the Southwest led him to teach a comparative literature class and eventually publish a book on the Southwest, "Mavericks on the Border: The Early Southwest in Historical Fiction and Film."

"He starts teaching a subject, then he turns it into a book," said French and Italian Professor Lise Leibacher, Canfield's colleague and friend for over 20 years.

"He is also in many ways focused, but dispersed," Leibacher said. She added that his well roundedness in British literature, American literature and restoration drama make him a key player in the Department of English.

"He combines so many of the different sections of the English Department it amazes me," Leibacher said.

"He has a very innovative approach in a traditional field," Leibacher said, adding that British literature is an area that is difficult to make one's mark, "that's why he is internationally known."

In addition to having 11 publications under his belt, Canfield has received numerous major teaching awards on campus, as well as national awards.

His achievements include 2001 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1993 CASE Arizona Professor of the Year and Leicester and Kathryn Sherill Creative Teaching Award, and 1991 Award for Teaching Innovation in General Education. He has also received three nominations for the UA Five-Star Faculty Award for Teaching. He was also responsible for the revamping of the undergraduate Tier 1 general education requirements, which effect almost all UA students.

Despite national merits, the most meaningful award Canfield received was the Five-Star Faculty Award for Teaching in 1984, which came directly from the students.

Although the award dates back almost 20 years, many of Canfield's students continue to hold him in high esteem.

Canfield's ability to speak directly to his students is what many say sets him apart from other professors, said Min Seong, a computer science student who is currently enrolled in Canfield's critical cultural concepts course.

"There's no hidden boundary between us and him," Seong said, and added that discussion is a crucial part of Canfield's approach to teaching, even in large classes.

"He challenges your beliefs, that's very engaging," said Laura A. Marshall, an ecology and evolutionary biology freshman who is also enrolled in the course.

"He's very enthusiastic and forceful he makes you think," Marshall said.

"He certainly takes risks in front of the classroom that would scare off most people," said Andrew Sullivan, a doctoral student in English who is also a teaching assistant to Canfield.

"He's fearless," Sullivan added.

In addition to being an accomplished professor, Canfield is also a devoted family man. The father of three sons, who have all attended or are attending the UA, and husband of 40 years, he's turned some of his scholarly work into a family affair.

"He's very proud of his family; that's a side of Canfield that is very moving," Leibacher said.

His latest publication, "The Graying of the Sixties," incorporates his much enjoyed past time of poetry with artwork contributed by his sons.

But Canfield doesn't stop there.

He was the faculty advisor to both the UA Bujukon and Tae Kwon Do Clubs for several years and, until last fall, served as an AYSO National Level Soccer Referee for children under six.

Tatum added that his positive outlook on life reflects Canfield's characteristics of being a fighter and an optimist. Canfield said if his health stabilizes, he plans to continue teaching at the university until he's 70 years old.

"There's no rest for the weary," he said. "I love teaching, it's in my blood."

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