In memory of Stéfan Sinclair

The global ADHO community deeply mourns the loss of our friend and colleague Stéfan Sinclair (most recently of McGill University in Montréal). In sharing this heartfelt statement by Stéfan’s colleagues from ADHO’s Constituent Organization in Canada, CSDH/SCHN, we wish also to commemorate Stéfan’s many and lasting contributions to the life and work of our whole international community.

Although he spent his entire professional life in Canada, Stéfan was a true world citizen of the digital humanities. He is perhaps one of only a few people to have served on the boards and as president or vice president of two different ADHO organizations (ACH and CSDH/SCHN). In that same strong internationalist spirit, he served on an astonishing number of ADHO committees, notably including our Standing Committee on Multi-Lingualism & Multi-Culturalism (MLMC) and the governing Steering Committee, both for many years. This organizational service was enhanced by “EXPLOIT: Digital Tools for Harnessing Cultural Plurality in Scholarly Discourse,” a project funded by ADHO and co-led by Stéfan, which eventually evolved into the Digital Commons Initiative. In ways perhaps less visible, but certainly no less significant, Stéfan nominated, promoted, and mentored many of us individually, from all around the world, in our service to the greater ADHO community.

Stéfan was also a regular on the annually designated DH Conference Program Committees from their earliest days, not only doing the labor required to create a stimulating and successful conference, but also always helping to set a tone of collegiality and inclusion. His impact on our annual conference reached an even more visible pinnacle when he co-hosted DH2017 at McGill, a memorable and hard-earned triumph both for him personally and for the larger community of Montréal DHers whom he helped shepherd in the service of all. Many of us remember Stéfan’s unique mix of jollity and seriousness at our conferences, whether he was hosting a “job slam” (his characteristically lively and angst-free method of introducing up-and-coming colleagues to others who might hire them), showing up for an early-morning fun run, passionately debating in committee meetings or conference sessions, or open-heartedly socializing after any of these. This ethos of serious fun is a visible thread in Stéfan’s scholarship and tool-building as well. 

Many of us who teach and write about the Digital Humanities around the world would find it nearly unimaginable to do so without mentioning or demonstrating or using Stéfan’s perhaps best known contribution to DH scholarship, Voyant Tools. This low-barrier-of-entry suite of text analysis tools came from an imagination and an intelligence that combined substance and style in profound ways.  Stéfan was deeply dedicated to DH tool building, to fostering communities of tool-builders, and to ensuring that those of us who don’t build can equally benefit from using those tools. 

We in the ADHO organization join Stéfan’s Canadian colleagues in celebrating his rich, warm, collegial legacy, and in mourning his loss profoundly. Our thoughts are with them, and with Stéfan’s family, friends, and loved ones, wherever you may be. Please know that he will not be forgotten in our community.