On June 30, 2015, David Frank retired from the University of New Brunswick Department of History. Over his 35-year career at UNB he supervised over 30 MA and PhD students, and was the editor of Acadiensis from 1981-1986, 1991-1994 and 1998-2001. On the occasion of his retirement we have asked a number of his former students and colleagues to reflect on David and his contributions to the study of Atlantic Canadian history. This is the second post in a series.
by Tim Lewis
David became my doctoral supervisor in 1999 following the retirement of Ernie Forbes. A change in doctoral supervisors can be a highly stressful development, but I never gave it much thought as I was simply being passed from one UNB History legend to another.
I always found David to be extremely supportive and an excellent listener. He was always interested in my thoughts and my research, and sought to bring the best out in both, but never in a way that was interfering or controlling. David’s superlative editorial skills were also well known, so whenever a draft chapter came back more or less intact, I felt confident that it had to be pretty good. Moreover, any comments and/or suggested changes that were made were always on point, and made the work all the better. In the same vein, knowing that David had given his approval of each chapter of the dissertation gave me a great feeling of reassurance heading into my defence in the summer of 2003. I had a strong sense that if David had been through the entire work and found no significant problems, no one else would either, and I was proven right.
David also wisely encouraged me to take on a teaching assignment that was offered me by Mount Allison University in the academic year 2000-2001. Even though it delayed completion of the dissertation somewhat, that experience – teaching a year-long Canadian survey course – proved invaluable in terms of university teaching experience. That background, combined with my prior work in the public school system, paved the way for my being chosen to fill three consecutive year-long, term positions – at St. Francis Xavier, Dalhousie and Cape Breton respectively – from 2003 to 2006. Those experiences, in turn, were instrumental in my earning a full-time appointment at Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University), in Nanaimo, British Columbia, starting in August 2006. None of that work may have come my way without David’s sound advice. Those appointments would also not have come my way were it not for David’s consistent willingness to write supportive letters of reference, and there were a good many other letters he had to write concerning positions that I did not get! The timing of those letters, I know, was sometimes less than convenient, but I knew they would always be sent, and that they would be written in a manner that would present me in the best light possible.
I suppose all of the actions described above could be considered merely evidence of a good professor doing his job, but there is far more to it than that. I found that David always conducted himself with a strong sense of compassion and decency, and that was an example I have tried to take with me in my career. David is one of those professors who truly put the humanity in the study of Arts and Humanities, and I now strive to leave all of my students with the same sort of positive and supportive experience that I had with David. A teacher can have no greater legacy.
Thank you, David.
Tim Lewis received his PhD in 2003 under David Frank’s supervision. He is Chair of the Department of History at Vancouver Island University.