I am a native of Waterloo, Ontario where I went to Lexington Public School and Lincoln Heights Public School. I then went to Waterloo Collegiate and became interested in history under teachers like Jack Sinkins and Paul Voisin. A trip to Europe with my brother and parents in 1972 was a real rush. I couldn't get enough of those Church crypts. For no reason that I can remember I took Geography or Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University. Doug Lorimer taught my first university history course, Twentieth Century British History. My second history course was a History of French Canada with Terry Copp. I double majored in History and Political Science, but was already leaning to the historical side when I graduated.
After a trip to Europe in the summer of 1983, I started my MA under Terry Copp. I interviewed a lot of veterans of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, and wrote a 'new' wartime history of that battalion. My uncle, James F. Swayze, DSO was an officer in the "Lincs" and he and I travelled around France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the fall of 1984 'researching' the book. With Terry Copp's support, that book was published in 1986 as The Lincs: A History of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment at War. I still have a close connection to the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, and to Terry Copp, who is the Director of the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies.
To my great surprise, (and the shock of all who knew me), I won a Sir John A. Macdonald Scholarship and headed to Western where I studied the Canadian Army Officer Corps during the Second World War. A.M.J. Hyatt was my kind and patient supervisor. When I graduated from Western, I was already teaching at UW. I came on as a tenure-track departmental member in 1994.
Soon after joining uWaterloo full time, I embarked on some local history. I was commissioned by the Waterloo Historical Society to write Waterloo County: An Illustrated History (1997). I also represented UW for eight years on the Board of the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation.
My work has taken me to many places, including Europe, Jordan and Afghanistan, studying facets of Canadian foreign and defence policy. My interest in military leadership has led me to write papers for the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute. I have also co-edited two collections works, one historical, one contemporary. With Mike Bechthold and Andrew Iarocci, I edited Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment (Waterloo: WLU Press, 2007) in time for the 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. With Mark Sedra, I edited, Afghanistan: Transition Under Threat (Waterloo: WLU Press, 2008).
I continue to take many battlefield study tours leading veterans, their families, students and teachers to Northwest Europe. One of those annual student tours is organized and sponsored by the Canadian Battlefields Foundation,where I am on the Board of Directors.
Currently I am a member of the University of Waterloo Senate and the University's Board of Governors.
- B.A. Wilfrid Laurier University, 1983
- M.A. Wilfrid Laurier University, 1985
- Ph.D. University of Western Ontario, 1992
Research and teaching interests
- Canadian military history
- Canadian military leadership
- Digital history and mapping
- 120 Squadron, RAF (1941-1945)
Over the last decade, I have led veterans, their families, teachers and students to study the battlefields of Northwest.
- HIST 226 Canada and the Second World War
- HIST 250 The Art and Craft of History
- HIST 610 War and Society Seminar
- HIST 611 War and Society Graduate Seminar
“War and historical memory,” Acadiensis, XXXVII, 2 (Summer/Autumn 2008): 140-147.
- “Third Canadian division: Forgotten victory,” in Hayes, Iarocci, Bechthold, Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007.
- “Mackenzie King and Waterloo county” in John English and Ken McLaughlin (eds.) Mackenzie King: Citizenship and Community Toronto: Robin Brass Studio, 2003.
- “A search for balance: Canada and the United Nations,” Wilfried von Bredow (ed.) Die freundliche Mittelmacht: Kanada im interntionaen System der Gegenwart (The Friendly Middle Power: Canada in the Current International System) Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag, 2003.
- “Pondering Canada’s army leadership in war and peace,” in Yves Tremblay (ed.) Canadian Military History Since the 17th Century: Proceedings of the Canadian Military History Conference, Ottawa, 5-9 May 2000. Ottawa: Directorate of History and Heritage, 2001: 213-223.
- “From Berlin to the trek of the Conestoga: A revisionist approach to Waterloo county’s German identity,” Ontario History XCI, 2 (Autumn 1999): 131-150.
- "Science and the ’magic eye’: Innovations in the selection of Canadian army officers, 1939-1945." Armed Forces and Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal 22:2 (Winter 1995/1996): 275-295.
- “‘Where are our liberators?’ The Canadian liberation of West Brabant, 1944,” Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies/ Revue Canadienne d’étudies Néerlandaises XVI, II (Fall 1995 Automne): 56-63.
Awards and achievements
- Fred Landon Award, Ontario Historical Society, 1998
- Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Waterloo, 2001
- Dr. Jean Steckle Award for Heritage Education, Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation, 2007
- Canadian Military History, Editorial board member
- Canadian Battlefields Foundation, Board member
University of Waterloo Senator
University of Waterloo Board of Governors member