Prof. Bill French and Prof. Glen Peterson Retire after Three Decades of Inspiring UBC Students 

UBC History faculty members often dedicate decades to shaping the future of our students and fostering positive department culture, all the while making invaluable contributions to their fields of expertise. This year, beloved faculty members Dr. Glen Peterson and Dr. Bill French will join the ranks of UBC History Emeriti, after 30 and 33 years of service to the Department, respectively. 

Over the years, Dr French and Dr. Peterson have helped countless students find their love for History and brought new perspectives and understanding to what the discipline is and can be. Read about their careers and take in some reflections from their colleagues below.

Happy retirement, Professors!

Bill French

​​Professor Bill French completed his doctorate at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1990, and was hired at UBC in that same year, having already taught for two years as an instructor at Utah State University. Over the 33 years he was in the department as assistant and then associate professor, he has taught hundreds of undergraduate students in History and Latin American Studies. In his last year at UBC, he served as associate head of the department.

In 1995, Dr. French received the Faculty of Arts Teaching Award. In 2009, he won the Edwin Lieuwen Award for the Promotion of Excellence in the Teaching of Latin American Studies from the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies. 

“Bill’s histories of intimacy are models of methodology that exhibit his finely-tuned ear for languages of love, honour, and family,” writes Dr. Tamara Myers. “A conversation with Bill meant at once facing the hard stuff and learning how to really laugh. A better colleague, one could not find!”

While at UBC, Dr. French supervised more than 20 MA students and 7 PhD students to completion. He served as the Chair of the Latin American Studies Program from 2001 – 2005, and as President of the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies from 1993 – 1994. He served as the Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Mexican Studies (CAMS) from 1996 – 1998, and then served as President from 1998 – 2018. 

“A willingness to do things differently (and to speak truth – or a reasonable facsimile of it – to power) was always a hallmark of Bill’s approach,” writes Dr. Joy Dixon, who has co-taught with Dr. French previously. “I joined the department as it was on the brink of change, and Bill was one of the people struggling to build a new kind of department and a new departmental culture.”

“Much of what I learned about how to teach and think about history – and about how to be a colleague — came from working with Bill. He showed me how to teach and work with humour, and resilience, with a willingness to be challenged and an endless sense of curiosity about new approaches and new ways of doing things,” reflects Dixon.

Dr. French has published two monographs: A Peaceful and Working People: Manners, Morals, and Class Formation in Northern Mexico (University of New Mexico Press, 1996), and The Heart in the Glass Jar: Love Letters, Bodies and the Law in Mexico (University of Nebraska Press, 2015). The latter won the 2016 Thomas McGann Book Prize in Modern Latin American History, awarded by the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies. 

He continues to work on the microfilmed diaries of Luciano J. Garrardo for a project entitled “Mapping Masculine Desire: Love, Courtship and Power in Nineteenth Century Mexico.”

Glen Peterson

Professor Glen Peterson completed his doctorate at UBC in 1992, and was hired in the Department of History as an Assistant Professor in 1993. He became a Professor in 2012, and has remained a part of the department throughout his 30-year career, during which he has taught thousands of undergraduates, many of whom took History 103 with him. 

Dr. Peterson was the principal supervisor of 8 MA students and 7 PhD students at UBC. In 2004, he won a UBC Student Alma Mater Society’s “Just Desserts” prize for his undergraduate teaching. In 2007, he was awarded the UBC President’s Service Award for Excellence in appreciation of his work as Faculty Advisor to the UBC Committee of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) from 1994 until the present

Dr. Peterson’s books include Overseas Chinese in the People’s Republic of China (Routledge, 2012), and The Power of Words: Literacy and Revolution in South China (University of British Columbia Press, 1997), the latter of which won the K.D. Srivastava Prize for Excellence in Scholarly Publications. With Graham Johnson, Peterson published the Historical Dictionary of Guangzhou (Canton) and Guangdong (University Press of America, 1999). 

He is currently working on a book manuscript on China’s participation in international efforts to address problems of forced migration and refugees, which he won a SSHRC Insight Grant in 2016.

“For 30 years, Glen has provided his own blend of steady, if understated, leadership,” writes Dr. Leo Shin, a colleague in Chinese history in the department. “He is a core member of the China caucus, an highly effective mentor for graduate students, a popular teacher of one of the Department’s first-year world history courses, and a steadfast volunteer faculty advisor for students from war-torn countries. We will miss his wise counsel.”