Messages of Remembrance
Jean Laponce was a unique teacher whose broad notions of what kinds of questions are worth asking was a huge influence on me. His seminars created an intimate family of inquiry in our small group of honours students, and I am forever grateful to him for that rich experience of what a seminar should be.
One of the books in the reading list for the 1988-89 Honours seminar was E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology. What the heck was this doing in a political science course? I had never encountered a mind with such breadth, and such genuine curiosity in the full range of human affairs, until I met Professor Laponce. The great books he had us read were ends in themselves, to be sure. But they were also a powerful means, for him to pass on his great love of learning and his expansive view of the discipline. I was hooked for life. It was a privilege to have been in his class.
Professor Laponce opened each session of the 1987-88 senior honours seminar with a brief exercise, such as having us list the 5 most important events in world history, or try to classify the UBC Poli Sci faculty according to religion and eye colour. Often, the task was unrelated to the readings, but it was almost always interesting and challenging. When we were done, he'd review the prior week's results, along with comparison to those from past years, and briefly explain why the topic was of interest to him. All these years later, I can still recall how intriguing these excursions were, and how often he could surprise us. He was one-of-a-kind, and I didn't fully realize until later just how lucky I was to have had that seminar experience. RIP.
I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Professor Laponce. I had the opportunity to be both a student and employee, working on various research projects. His passion for political science instilled an interest that still inspires me today. To his friends and family, may your cherished memories provide comfort and strength.