Dr. Richard Lazenby is a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia who has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students, eventually working alongside some of them in the field. He is a well-recognized international researcher, and closer to home a long-standing forensic anthropologist In British Columbia (and a co-author with Dr. Mark Skinner at Simon Fraser University of only the second text book in the field at the time).
In addition to anthropology, Dr. Lazenby continues to be influential in helping shape the Northern Medical Program into the successful program that it is today, facilitating in building the infrastructure and day-to-day logistics. He has been so since the inception of the NMP.
A founding faculty member at UNBC in 1994, Dr. Lazenby is credited with developing the University’s Anthropology Department along with the late Dr. Jim McDonald, the first chair of the department.
“Over the years, Richard helped grow and shape the department,” said Dr. Angèle Smith, current Chair of UNBC’s Anthropology Department. “While he had an active research career and carried out a tremendous amount of work as a forensic anthropologist working for the B.C. Coroner’s Office, Richard gave a lot of his time and energy to teaching in the department, and providing invaluable service to the operation and vision of the department.”
After 23 years of service, research and teaching excellence, Lazenby retired in December 2017.
Dr. Lazenby will be bestowed the title of Professor Emeritus at UNBC’s Convocation ceremony on May 25.
“This is a great honour conferred by the UNBC Senate and I certainly appreciate the recognition by my peers,” said Dr. Lazenby. “It is the culmination of many years in the life of the academy, of learning, teaching and collaborating with students and colleagues alike.
“Arriving as a founding faculty member in 1994 I have witnessed many changes at the institution; good times and difficult time. I hope going forward that UNBC enjoys much more of the former.”
As a scholar, Lazenby’s research covers three major areas within the field of biological anthropology – primate functional skeletal biology, human ecology and adaptability, and forensic anthropology. The focus of his research has been on identifying the origins of human handedness, a characteristic associated the lateralization of brain function (left brain and right brain functions) and the inception of language development and tool use some 4 million years ago. This work was undertaken with collaborators at the Universities of Calgary, Saskatchewan, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and supported by grants from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
As a forensic anthropologist, Dr. Lazenby served as a consultant with the B.C. Coroner’s Office and the RCMP’s Major Crime Units for more than three decades, working on more than 200 forensic cases. He spent more than two years working on the Robert Pickton file in the Lower Mainland during a time when he taught a full course load, served on University committees and split his week between UNBC, Prince George and on-site forensic excavations.
Internationally, he has worked closely with the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) and was instrumental in building a partnership between UNBC and FAFG where students were trained in human skeletal biology and forensic anthropology, first at the University before doing hands-on forensic work in Guatemala.
As a successful and highly-regarded teacher and educator, Dr. Lazenby, who received a UNBC University Excellence in Service Award in 2017, and nominated twice for teaching excellence awards, has been the sole contributor to offering the stream of biological anthropology at UNBC, from first and second-year courses to more specialized third and fourth year courses.
His teaching was eclectic, covering a broad range of subject matter, He sees his most “special” courses as Nutritional Anthropology (it’s all about having fun with food and stories), Race, Racism and Human Biology (challenging student’s views of the past and present), Forensic Anthropology (always popular sharing real life experience, and the introductory course for which Dr. Lazenby co-wrote the text with Dr. Anne Keenleyside at Trent University).
The popularity of his teaching is shown even in this last semester – his Forensic Anthropology (taught as a part-time instructor post-retirement) class had a wait list and twice we had to increase the size of the class, as Dr. Smith noted.
“The students appreciated his depth of knowledge and his vast experience. They also loved his dark sense of humour and the degree to which he cared for and wanted the best for his students,” she said.
In addition to the Anthropology department, for 14 years, between 2002 and 2015, Dr. Lazenby served as the Northern Medical Program’s Course Director, Doctor, Patient and Society course for Years 1 and 2, with the Faculty of Medicine and more recently as the Co-Course Director, for the course Flexible Enhance Learning (2014-Present).