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A tribute

Oebele Jan (John) Buffinga, Jan. 6, 1954-May 27, 2019

Campus and Community

By Janet Harron

Oebele Jan (John) Buffinga was, as his obituary states, “an all-round decent, well-liked, hard-working and stunningly handsome no-nonsense good guy.”

John Buffinga
Photo: Submitted

An expert in early 20th-century German literature and new German film, Dr. Buffinga was born in Holland in 1954 and immigrated to Ontario with his family at the age of 14. He received bachelor and master of arts degrees at the University of Western Ontario and a PhD from the University of British Columbia.

Beloved instructor

Dr. Buffinga first came to Memorial as an assistant professor at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus. He moved to St. John’s in 1990 to take on the role of head of the (then) Department of German and Russian (now the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures).

Recognized university-wide as a highly respected and capable administrator, he was also a skillful mediator and diplomat, and a dedicated and active committee member at both the department and faculty levels.

Dr. Buffinga, centre, with a group of students on an international learning experience.
Photo: Submitted

A beloved instructor to countless undergraduate and graduate students, Dr. Buffinga is also remembered by junior colleagues for communicating his passion for teaching as a reciprocal activity that always involved learning.

Special address

During the afternoon session of the May 28 spring convocation ceremony, Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president academic, addressed the graduates and assembled guests with the following comments about Dr. Buffinga:

“I keep thinking of how much John embraced this university — both Grenfell and [the St. John’s] campus — and how much he made it his home,” she said.

“Dutch-born, he lived in Ontario and British Columbia before settling here where he devoted his time and passion to his students, and to cultivating this impossible landscape into a gorgeously flowering display. He loved gardening and spent hours and hours creating spectacular landscapes. Every single person I have talked to in the last 24 hours has noted that above all John was generous and kind. Even plants came alive for him on this rocky terrain. The place he called home loved him right back, and Memorial is a little less whole today without John.”

Recently retired

A devoted member of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. John Buffinga had recently retired from his role at Memorial. He will be sorely missed by students and colleagues, both faculty and staff alike.

“A great man with a great human heart has left us,” said Dr. Philippe Basabose, department head.

Memorial University extends the greatest sympathy to Dr. Buffinga’s husband Jeff, his daughter, Henny, and all the members of his family.

More information can be found here.


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