Good-bye to Shannon Dea

Friday, September 18, 2020


Shannon DeaFrom 2007-2020, Shannon Dea was absolutely central to life at not just the Philosophy Department, but also the University -- she served as Vice President of FAUW, Director of Women’s Studies, Teaching Fellow, and Associate Chair for both Graduates and Undergraduates.

Among many honours, she is the winner of the Distinguished Teacher Award, the University of Waterloo’s highest award for teaching excellence, the University of Waterloo Faculty of Arts Excellence in Teaching Award, the University of Waterloo Faculty of Arts Excellence in Service Award, and the Canadian Philosophical Association essay prize for best paper by a tenured professor.Book cover

She created and sustained many important campus initiatives including the W3 (Waterloo Women’s Wednesdays) which organizes events for women-identified and non-binary colleagues to get together and share research, the University of Waterloo 16 Days of Action on Gender-Based Violence campaign, and the Indigenization Working Group of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo.

Among many articles and other publications, she is the author of the acclaimed book Beyond The Binary: Thinking about Sex and Gender. Sadly for us, but excitingly for Saskatchewan, she has now moved on to a post as Dean of Arts at the University of Regina. 

Due to COVID, Shannon’s send off(s) had to be either virtual or socially distanced.  Beloved by many groups of people, she did a lot of both!  People showed up in front of her house on multiple occasions.

The department gave her a Zoom going-away party online.  The tributes flowed in from all across the university, and this excerpt from former philosophy chair Dave DeVidi captures the spirit well.

Katy Fulfer"It has now come to the point where I’ve been in the Philosophy Department longer than anyone, which means that I have known and worked with Shannon as long as anyone at Waterloo. I’ve therefore had a chance to talk to many people about her over several years, and there’s a remarkable pattern in these conversations: people always seem to reach for the same phrase to describe her. “Shannon,” people say, “is a force of nature.” 

If you’re not ready for her, first encounters with Shannon can be quite shocking. If it’s a conversation, you might not be ready to shift gears and cover so many topics so fast, nor to laugh quite so hard. If it’s a Senate meeting you might find yourself wondering whether you’ve ever seen anyone arrive quite so well-prepared, and asking the person next to you, “Is she really going to ask that pointed question in public?” If you’re a colleague or student in distress and someone has sent you to talk to Shannon, you might wonder when you’ve ever met such an empathetic person. In almost any first encounter, Shannon can bowl you over. Sometimes it takes people some time to overcome their initial shock. When they do, they see that all of it — all the energy and activity — is generated in a heart that is a fascinating mix of compassion, justice seeking, curiosity and looking for fun, and all of those instincts are put into some sort of order by as sharp an intellect as you’ll find anywhere. If you know anyone (other than a right wing troll on Twitter) who wants to say something bad about Shannon Dea, my bet is it’s because they haven’t had a chance to spend more than a few minutes with her…

Shannon is unique. Wherever she is gets better because she’s there. Well done University of Regina for seeing what was in front of you."  

We wish Dean Dea extremely well on her new adventures, and hope she’ll come back to visit often.  We will miss her.