Education was always an interest for Doris Jantzi, who grew up on a farm outside Waterloo, even though her father said university was not something she should pursue because she “would simply get married.” This interest in education led Doris to a job teaching elementary school in Elmira where she met her future husband, Alvin Jantzi, who was also teaching.  

A desire for further education took Doris to Goshen College in 1964, where she was introduced to issues of race and social justice. She returned home to attend the University of Waterloo and moved into residence in 1965 at Conrad Grebel College.  One of her courses was in Sociology and was taught by Winfield Fretz, who was no stranger to her family. Doris’s sister-in-law, Pauline Bauman, had previously known Fretz and was working in Grebel’s office.  

Doris’s education in Sociology included a research project where she assisted a Waterloo professor who was researching the revival services held at the Kitchener Auditorium at the time by Leighton Ford. “It was my job to collect the cards that people filled out when they came forward during the revival service and summarize these responses, particularly noting any church affiliation. What we found is that the vast majority of those people who came forward were already members of a church.”  

Doris’s world was opening, and she recalls that her Grebel roommate from Oakville helped introduce her to a broader world beyond Mennonites - even more than her introduction to Russian Mennonites from Leamington.    

A major social justice issue in the 1960s was the Vietnam War. “Alvin and I were very active in the peace movement. It was interesting that at Grebel itself, there wasn’t that much interest in the anti-war movement,” she said. “However, David Kelly, who was Alvin’s roommate at Grebel, was very involved in the student movement for peace and at this time, and I became much more politically active. I do remember an event where we invited poet Earle Birney to attend - but hardly anybody from the campus attended this event.”  

It was around this time that Doris and Al became more involved with the New Democratic Party and actively campaigned for Max Saltzman. After moving to the Downsview area of Toronto, Doris began working on an MA in Sociology at York University, while and Al became connected with the Tenants Movement, helping to advocate for affordable housing. Later they both joined the Waffle Movement, the left wing within the NDP. In fact, Doris was the Co-Chair of the movement with Jim Laxer after the group left the NDP.  

Grebel fostered this interest in social activism and having mentors like Walter Klaassen and Winfield Fretz provided an academic perspective on these issues.  “Conrad was a safe place - I never lost my base, not going off the deep end. Even though some may say being part of the Waffle was,” she said with a laugh.   “We were never drawn to the hippy movement of this era as it was more ‘self-indulgent’,” she observed. “The social justice side and class analysis was more appealing than the focus on individual freedom.”  

Doris reflected that, “Al connects spirituality more to social issues, whereas I look to other writers like Margaret Wheatley, whose writing I call ‘Daily Bread’ devotional for agnostics.”  

Doors opened for Doris in her profession as a researcher at the Ontario Institute for Education (OISE), with a part-time project on trade unions, creating small booklets to be used in high schools.  Volunteering with the Waffle in leadership and administration took up much of her other time.  

During that era, many of her colleagues at OISE were women who were working on ‘soft money’ projects based on grant availability. Doris and others led a movement to unionize part-time employees at OISE, to provide more stability. Eventually she gained full-time employment and went on to coordinate a variety of research studies in schools, retiring in 2006 from OISE as a Senior Research Associate.  

When asked for advice to current students, Doris said that it is important to “find what grounds you, especially in difficult circumstances.” She went on to say, “I bleed for the youth of today. What is life going to be for our grandnieces and nephews? It is important to keep a balance between optimism and pessimism and to find the hope where you can, and for some that may be in the realm of faith.”  

Making the world a better place for the next generation requires a focus on social justice, something to which Doris has committed her life’s work.  

Doris' story is part of Grebel's 60 Stories for 60 Years project. Check out our 60 Stories page for more stories in this series. If you would like to nominate a Grebel alumnus to share about their experiences at Grebel, please submit a nomination form.

By Fred W. Martin