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The Character

George Feaver circa 2006


As we gather here today each of us has images, memories, reflections running through our minds as we remember George – whether as father, brother, partner, student, friend, colleague. He was all these things and more, and all of us saw and knew some of these many different sides of him.

He was, in his relationships with all of us, passionate, proud and fiercely loyal – passionate and loyal to places, ideas, institutions and people.

George was one of those people particularly pleased with his name. To his everlasting delight, his mother had named him after the King, as if she had some premonition he would become an anglophile. Throughout his life he was drawn to England – first as a graduate student, later as an academic visitor – and drawn to understanding and interpreting English character and achievement.

His life’s work centred on major English thinkers of 19th and 20th century. Retirement didn’t slow him down and in these last months he happily spent time at the University of Texas library working on the papers of his LSE mentor and friend, Maurice Cranston.

My sense of George’s comfort in things English came home vividly in June of 1979. I was on a research trip in Ireland when George abandoned London for a few days and together we drove west across the Irish countryside in search of the first European Election. Gas shortages were everywhere that spring, and pushing on towards Clifden Town we soon found ourselves in the Gaeltecht, that part of the country where English disappears from the road signs.

Lost at a junction of country lanes deep in county Mayo, with a gas tank dangerously low, and nothing but Gaelic on a set of old road signs pointing in seven different directions, left Feaver very anxious. He muttered about my driving, and the great perils of being abandoned amongst such people. I thought then that I had probably lost his vote on my next promotion.

However, the fact that I am here to help celebrate George is testimony to his ability to rise above such obvious pettiness . . . . though perhaps it is also due to the fact we finally made it into Clifden where, while waiting for a gas delivery, we spent 2 very relaxing days sunning ourselves on a bench by the local pub.

But however drawn intellectually to England, and things English, George never forgot where he came from. Indeed there can be hardly anyone here today who hasn’t heard George say that he was just a ‘wiry kid from the tough part of Hamilton’. And he always said it with considerable pride.

High school days at Central Secondary in Hamilton were a vital part of George’s story, for it was there that he nurtured his considerable athletic and musical abilities: he was President of both the Student Council and the Boys Athletic Association as well as trumpet in his own band. Duncan Smith recalls that he could also be heard at the Brant Inn playing as a sideman with jazz greats like Louie Armstrong and Benny Goodman when they came to town.

One of Hamilton’s All-Star athletes, he was what the sports writers like to call a ‘Natural’. At Mac, UBC and then LSE he played high level basketball – the LSE team was British champions in 1960-62. Little of this changed over the years, and his older colleagues can remember that twenty-five years later he would still regularly hit the first pitch in our annual softball game with the graduate students clear across Trimble Park and over 8th avenue.

After a short time at McMaster, George transferred to UBC where he was soon ensconced as a leader in student athletics and politics. But it wasn’t long before he discovered his natural home was in the Department of Political Science. It was there that one of his Profs (my Ontario informant can’t recall just who) told him that if he really wanted to go to graduate school and follow an academic life, he better cut out politics and devote more attention to his books. So he did just that.

After graduating, he left Vancouver, first to study in London and then teach in the US but, almost inevitably, he was drawn back to UBC and the Department. He was proud to have been a student of Laponce, Langdon and Wladek Stankiewicz who had taught him political theory, and so he jumped at the chance to join them as a colleague.

And for the rest of his life he was fiercely loyal to the Department – no one cared more about its collegiality, though it must be admitted he did his share to try his colleagues’ patience– and no one was prouder of his membership in it. He retired under protest, but never gave up his conviction that he was a member of “the collegiality” as he called it, and he kept us continually informed of his views on matters large and small in a regular onslaught of opinionated emails.

George’s email, like his conversation, was rarely politically correct. Indeed, I suspect that he rather liked to deliberately provoke those he regarded as ‘soft’ on the issues of the day – a habit he had apparently first developed in those Hamilton classrooms. There were times when he went too far but he was usually surprised and distressed when ferociously delivered opinions were taken personally. When that happened he could, and generally did, offer fulsome apologies.

This led to his well developed capacity for apology – he really was quite good at it, no doubt in part because he had considerable practice – but they were always genuine for he never set out to hurt anyone. He just loved spirited talk, never shying from vigorous debate, and sometimes this let his enthusiasm for absolute positions or Conservative politicians get the better of him.

George was a passionate family man – passionate enough to do it more than once. And he was particularly devoted to his children whom he loved rather fiercely. He also talked about them with real pride. In the thirty-four years I knew him I don’t think a week went by when he didn’t bring them into conversation. One time he might be anxious about how Catherine was doing, another time he would regale you with a proud father’s account of Noah’s first baseball triumphs, or perhaps a recent happy outing with Anthea and Elysia.

Of course he had his own troubles with Nancy, Ruth and Shannon, and occasionally he even admitted that he didn’t understand women very well (an understatement any reasonable listener might think). But when he talked about these women he had shared his life with, you could hear that he was enormously proud and thankful that such strong and quite wonderful women had wanted to share theirs with him.


The prophet tells us that
There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity under heaven

A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot

George knew this and in many ways his whole being appeared to be about living this out. He was always planting and uprooting – places, ideas, relationships – but he also had a way of always reaching out to try and close the circle. Thus, in these last months, the chance to work on the papers of the very scholar whose influence at graduate school had set him off on his life’s academic journey was a particular joy that brought him back to where he began.

Words seem both too much, and not enough, on such occasions.
But surely the prophet is right – there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.
In a verse we don’t often read he goes on to say:
That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. George Feaver knew the truth of that.

He was a man not easily ignored and now that he is gone he leaves a hole that is not easily filled.

Let us offer words of prayer to those especially close to him – his sister Marion, and to Catherine; and to Shannon along with Noah, Anthea and Elysia,
In the words of the great English theologian, John Henry Newman

May he support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen & the evening comes & the busy world is hushed & the fever of life is over & our work is done.
Then, in his mercy, may he give us a safe lodging & a holy rest and peace at the last


R. Ken Carty


Vancouver Sun Obituary

FEAVER George Arthur. Born May 12, 1937 in Hamilton, Ont. Died May 12, 2008 on his 71st birthday in Vancouver, B.C. after a brief illness. George will be greatly missed by his daughter Catherine (Brian) Dunik, his younger children Noah, Anthea and Elysia Feaver and their mother Shannon Selin, his sister Marion and numerous nieces and nephews. George completed his B.A. at the University of British Columbia in 1959 and received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics in 1962. At both UBC and the University of London, George won varsity letters in basketball and had his own college band. He was a member of the International Musicians’ Union and Beta Theta Pi college fraternity. George held faculty appointments in Political Science at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass., USA, London School of Economics, University College London, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., before coming to Vancouver, where he was Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia for over 30 years. He held visiting appointments at University of Massachusetts (Amherst), London School of Economics, and the Australian National University. In 2006-07, George was an Andrew Mellon Fellow at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. His main scholarly interests lay in the area of biography and history, and English-language moral and political philosophy, particularly the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He held a number of research fellowships and is the author of numerous books and other publications. He loved travelling, gardening, spending time with his children and enjoying the finer things in life.

All are welcome to a memorial service at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 20 at Dunbar Heights United Church, 3525 West 24th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of George to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada would be appreciated. The family is enormously grateful to Lynn Hammer and the University Golf Club staff and patrons for their heroic efforts on May 1, and to the surgical, medical and nursing staff of the cardiac surgery intensive care unit and the medical ICU at Vancouver Hospital for the attentive care shown to George during his subsequent illness.


For TREK – UBC Alumni Magazine – In Memoriam section

George Feaver died May 12, 2008, on his 71st birthday, from complications following a massive heart attack. As George liked to say, he was a “wiry kid from the tough part of Hamilton” (Ontario), where he credited the Boys’ Brigade with helping to keep him out of jail. After attending McMaster University for a year, he switched to UBC, where he completed his BA, served on student council, and was a member of Beta Theta Pi. In 1962, George received his PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE). He held faculty appointments in Political Science at Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, Mass.), the LSE, Georgetown University (Washington, DC), and Emory University (Atlanta), before returning to UBC in 1971, where he served as Professor of Political Science until his retirement in 2002. His life’s work centred on major English thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Retirement did not slow George down and over the last two years he was an Andrew Mellon Fellow at the University of Texas (Austin), where he happily spent time working on the papers of his LSE mentor and friend, Maurice Cranston.

Beyond his intellectual achievements, George had a natural athletic ability that was evident in his basketball-playing days at Hamilton Central High School, McMaster, UBC and the LSE. The LSE team on which he played won the British championship. He was scouted for major league baseball but decided to pursue an academic career instead. Twenty-five years later George would still regularly hit the first pitch in the Political Science faculty’s annual softball game with the graduate students clear across Trimble Park and over 8th Avenue.

George was also an excellent musician. In high school he started his own band, and also played trumpet at the Brant Inn, the centre of jazz near his home town, as a sideman with Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and several other great performers of the time.

George was a larger-than-life personality, whose erudition, story-telling ability, wide circle of acquaintances – ranging from Isaiah Berlin to Man Ray to Lady Bird Johnson – and penchant for becoming involved in unusual situations enlivened all his lectures and conversations. He was a keen traveller and a proud long-time member of the Travellers Club in London. He loved gardening, spending time with his children and enjoying the finer things in life. George is lovingly remembered by his children, Catherine (Brian) Dunik and Noah, Anthea and Elysia Feaver, his sister Marian Gillard, several nieces and nephews, and his many friends.


Duncan Smith remembrances of George Feaver – May 2008

I am a member of the generation who became a friend of George during the 1950’s, over half a century ago. Many of my memories date from 1955 when he joined Beta Theta Pi where we were house mates on Westbrook Crescent UBC and continue through the 1960’s when we both in London as well as to the years beyond.

George was a universal man. Beyond his intellectual achievements, he was a superb natural athlete (the basketball team of which he was a member at LSE 1960-62 became overall champions of Great Britain) and an excellent musician (he played trumpet at the Brant Inn, the centre of jazz near his home town Hamilton, as a side-man with some of great performers of the time – Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and others).

Juxtaposed to these diverse achievements, George also had a surprising and distinctive penchant for becoming involved in bizarre incidents. Most of us may encounter one, or perhaps two, such accidental event in our lifetime – for George it seemed to be an endless succession. The mark of this great friend was that no matter how serious the incident he invariably recognised the amusing elements and would later recount his experience along this vein with enormous relish.

Of all the incidents of which I am aware, two come to mind. I apologise in advance as in my written form I can not hope to capture the drama and panache with which George related the events at first instance.

The first incident occurred at the time George was a PhD student at LSE and arose during a trip to Moscow with a colleague from UBC. The student tour started in Paris with the group crammed into a dilapidated Volkswagen minibus on hard seats with an unaccommodating suspension system and bumped its way north east for a number of days until reaching accommodation facilities in a park on the outskirts of the Russian capital.

Toward the end of the stay, George and his colleague attended the Russian ballet. It was late when the performance ended and they found that public transportation to their accommodation outside Moscow had closed. Walking and talking on the way back their route took them alongside a moderately high wall. At this point in the journey their conversation was suddenly interrupted by vicious growl from behind. Turning, they saw a snarling Alsatian, fangs bared, charging through the dark toward them. There was no cover in the area and the only option was to run for the wall, jump for the top rail and hope to pull themselves up to safety. It is uncertain what happened in the next few seconds. Unfortunately, George missed the rail and as he prepared for his next attempt, the dog sunk his teeth into his left buttock. Each time he landed after successive jumps, the dog bit again.

Fortuitously, a harsh shout from an entrance along the wall called-in the dog. It retreated, disappeared through the entrance and the door was slammed shut.

After reaching their accommodation past mid-night, George’s colleague immediately set off to find medical assistance. He returned shortly with a nurse from a group of Swedish revellers engaged in celebrating the Summer Solstice. Her medical supplies comprised a bottle of Iodine and some cotton batten. The park was pitch black. The only electric light available was from a domed bandstand, the type often found in parks, where a single low-voltage light bulb flickered from the roof. It was on the platform under this light that George prepared himself for and received medical treatment.

Following a sleepless night, the pain had become more intense and George decided to examine by daylight the extent of medical treatment administered. He was astonished to discover the treatment consisted of two narrow bands of Iodine. One was around the circumference of his left thigh, the other, so far as he could see, encircled the area of his wound – in effect, representing a bull’s eye.

Later the Russian Authorities intervened appointing an English speaking Russian lady doctor to provide professional care. However the overriding priority was to determine if the dog was rabid. Until this was known the next stage of treatment could not be prescribed and George could not be cleared to leave the country.

It turned out there were a large number of Alsatians behind the wall each one tethered by a thirty foot chain to its own kennel set in line to provide a security barrier to what surmised to an experimental station. Understandably, neither George nor his colleague could identify the dog that attacked them from behind in the dark. Eventually a night-guard admitted to befriending one dog who he let out at night. A rabies test was undertaken but the laboratory analysis required a number of days to complete.

By this time the Russian Authorities had grown impatient for the tour group to leave. The lady doctor agreed to send a telegram to George’s London address indicating the next stage of treatment. Thus George, buttock bandaged, boarded the minibus with its un-compromising seats and un-accommodating suspension system and endured an exceedingly uncomfortable journey bouncing along the pot-holed roads for several days back to Paris.

Entering his flat in London there was indeed a telegram awaiting his arrival. Anticipating a course of anti-rabies injections that he was told were far more painful than the dog bites he had experienced and that had been aggravated by the minibus trip back to Paris, George read the message from the Russian lady doctor. It was a single sentence that said: ‘I have to inform you that the dog is alright’.


The second incident occurred a few years later when George was at Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts where he lived in a house on a small hill. A second house was situated next to it and both houses were accessed by a single, private lane from a main road about 75 yards below.

Following a snowfall during the winter months, the private lane could be difficult to drive-up. George a native of Canada had considerable experience driving in the winter conditions around Hamilton, Ontario. He was always able to negotiate the hill driving carefully along the edges to gain traction. His neighbour living in the second house on the hill came from a southern part of the US where there was never snow. Consequently, such driving conditions were entirely new to him.

On several occasions when George was already home, he heard the sound of a car engine roaring and the wine of tires spinning on the icy lane. Looking out, George found it was his neighbour. On the these occasions he would put on a winter coat and boots, go out to advise his neighbour to use only a small amount of throttle and then went behind the car to push until the car reached the top. George received minimal thanks for his efforts.

Returning home from the College one afternoon, he turned into his lane and saw his neighbour’s car ahead of him already firmly lodged part way up. In the usual manner the engine was racing at full throttle and the wheels spinning to no avail. George edged his car up the lane and stopped behind that of his neighbour. In this instance, the snow was deeper from a heavy fall and a different tactic was required.

George explained to his neighbour that he would lay out tire chains in the ground front of the rear wheels of his car. (A tried and tested method employed in Canada before snow-tires were invented). The essential step was to get the car ‘rocking’ forward and backward until sufficient momentum was gained to take the wheels out of the rut and onto the chains. The key to success was to give a gentle amount of throttle then none and to repeat the process until the extent of the rocking had been built up. George went to the back of the car to help by pushing.

The tactic proved effective and the car moved ahead onto the chains. The neighbour, aware of the progress, slammed the accelerator pedal to the floor. George heard the rattle of the chains whizzing past on either side on him followed by the clatter of metal and shattering of glass. Turning around with sound of neighbour’s car engine roaring in his ears, George could see the product of his neighbourly assistance. Both chains had passed through the front windshield of his car – one had clipped a headlight shattering the lens as it passed – the other was just visible part way out of the rear window.


Remembrances of George

The teen years

I had the pleasure of knowing George as a fellow student and classmate at Central Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario. At school we were both part of a band, sort of, that organized, sort of, to play for some dances and sporting events. George was a trumpet player and one of the few quality musicians; sadly, I was not, nor were the majority of our band members. We did, however, have a lot of fun.

We played baseball together and George was very competitive and intense in all that he did. He was our catcher (no surprise here if you were familiar with his strong legs and calves). If a “scrap” developed, George was always in the mix. This was true on the basketball court as well ……… He was an excellent student and the high school teachers were sometimes challenged by George, especially if they dared to espouse left leaning political positions. Personally, I was never confident enough to challenge a teacher. It is no surprise that he became a political science professor ……. I truly envied George.

The retirement years

We lost contact for about 45 years, mostly due to my moving to Los Angeles, California, then to San Diego, along with George’s several moves.

A Central Secondary School Reunion for all those who attended in the 1950’s allowed us to renew our friendship in 2001. Since then we have visited each other yearly, either in Vancouver, San Diego or Sunriver, Oregon where we had two special vacations together with our families. One story stands out as especially humorous. I think if you knew George, you could appreciate this anecdote.

In 2005 at Sunriver, George enrolled Noah in a model rocket class at the Nature Center. On the final day, parents and friends could witness the rocket firings. George introduced himself to a fellow and asked if he was in charge. The man responded by saying that he was just the handyman and did anything that needed doing, including cleaning the bathrooms. “In other words, I am just a fool,” he commented! George responded by telling of the history of the court jester, who was also known as a fool in the Middle Ages. They were thought of as special cases that had been touched by God with a special gift, and all monarchs had to have at least one. In those days freedom of speech was not a right, but the court jester could get away with saying anything, including calling the king an ass (I cleaned it up a bit here.) Any other subject who uttered anything similarly would be severely punished or beheaded. After George concluded his lesson, the fellow felt pretty good about himself.

Submitted with fond remembrances of a special friend,

Ron Hunt


George is mentioned in Polity: A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends of UBC political science (see p. 3)

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