John Seymour Conway, ODNW

John Seymour Conway, ODNW

December 31, 1929 - June 23, 2017

John was born in London, England, but was brought up in Scotland during the Second World War. He went to school at Sedbergh, Yorkshire, a suitably remote countryside far from the dangers of bombing. There he first became interested in history. After serving in Military Intelligence with the British Troops in Austria, he went up to St. John’s College, Cambridge in October 1949, and studied English and History before gaining his B.A. in 1952. He then took up graduate study under Sir Harry Hinsley, and wrote his dissertation on “German Foreign Policy 1937-1939”, which first introduced him to the criminal deeds of Hitler and his henchmen. He graduated with his PhD in 1955. But partly to escape from Europe’s  oppressive history, and partly to explore a newer world, he accepted an invitation to replace a professor on sabbatical leave at the University of Manitoba in 1955. The following summer he was invited to return for a second year. And on this occasion, sailing from England in the Empress of France, he was fortunate enough to meet Ann, who was also going out to Canada. They returned to England in order to get married in the summer of 1957, and then came together to the University of British Columbia to join the Department of History. John taught modern European history and international relations, for thirty-eight years until obliged to retire in 1995. But he continued to accept lecturing engagements for several years at UBC and other colleges. In 1998 he was appointed Smallman Visiting Professor at the University of Western Ontario.

John’s principal academic interests lay in the history of the German churches under Hitler, and in 1968 he published his standard account The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933-1945. His researches took him frequently to Germany, and brought him into contact with survivors of the Church Struggle, including the biographer of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose life and witness he greatly admired. Subsequently he wrote numerous articles about the German Churches and about the Holocaust. He later donated his books and papers on these subjects to the Library at Regent College. Outside the classroom, John was much involved with both the Student Christian Movement and with the World University Service, a faculty-student group interested in helping overseas students. This led him to become interested in refugee affairs, including the Tibetan Refugee Aid Society of Canada, of which he was director for a number of years. He made several trips to India to see the results of Canadian fund-raising there, and had the privilege of personally meeting the Dalai Lama. He also organised the Dalai Lama’s first visit to UBC in 1981. Subsequently he became the Chair of the Diocese of New Westminster’s Refugee Committee. For his work with refugees he was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and the Order of the Diocese of New Westminster in 2010.

John very much enjoyed music, and played the cello in an amateur string quartet for several decades. His numerous travels with Ann took him often to England but also to Europe, India and the Middle East. He and Ann particularly appreciated taking holidays in the mountains of the South Tyrol.

After a number of years as a parishioner of St. Anselm’s Church near UBC, where he became Rector’s Warden, John transferred to St. James’ in the late 1980s. He took an active role in parish life, particularly by writing for the parish magazine Cornerstone. In 2006 his collected pieces were published as a small book To Saint James With Love, Reflections on faith and history, which is still available. John and Ann have three children, David, Jane and Alison, and four grandchildren, Geoffrey, Sean, Hannah and Matthew. In John’s memory, please consider donating to one of John's favorite charities--ACTS at

I was privileged to speak with John a few times over the past 8 years and every conversation was illuminating and enthusiastic. He was always helpful and encouraging and I very much appreciated his feedback concerning Topic and his interest in the other diocesan communications vehicles.  He will be missed...Editor

(Article and the first Photo courtesy of St. James' Anglican Church)

Second Photo: John is invested with the Order of the Diocese of New Westminster, November 2010 PHOTO: Wayne Chose