Dr. Deborah van den Hoonaard spent much of her career at St. Thomas University encouraging the learning experience beyond classroom lectures.
Through the organization of workshops, public lectures, and conferences, she inspired many of her colleagues to share their research with each other and to connect with other researchers in the region.
Generous with her time, van den Hoonaard mentored many faculty and students and was the impetus behind many enriching gatherings on campus, from informal morning coffees to academic get-togethers to interfaith activities.

To recognize her contribution to the STU community, the university recently named her Professor Emerita, a rank awarded to retired professors who have served the university with great distinction.
van den Hoonaard began teaching in the department of Gerontology in 1991. She was then appointed a Canada Research Chair in Qualitative Research and Analysis in 2006 and her research has explored the life experiences of members of marginalized groups in Atlantic Canada, specifically older widows and widowers and immigrants of non-European descent.

“I was fortunate to be STU’s first Canada Research Chair. I saw the position as an opportunity to share the wealth that the CRC brought. I hope that I have provided encouragement and resources to other researchers,” she said. “I think the monthly qualitative lunches, where researchers from STU and UNB would make very brief presentations on things they were working on, and the annual workshops that brought in top researchers from North America to give public talks and lead workshops, had the most impact.”
Over her career, she presented 25 invited papers and keynote lectures and wrote 67 conference papers and 41 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals. Her book, Qualitative Research in Action: A Canadian Primer, written at the request of Oxford University Press, is considered one of the top Canadian sociology methods textbooks and is going into its third edition. A prolific author, her other books include By Himself: The Older Man’s Experience of Widowhood, The Widowed Self: The Older Woman’s Journey Through Widowhood, and Essentials of Thinking Ethically in Qualitative Research  and The Equality of Women and Men: The Experience of the Baha’i Community of Canada (with Will C. van den Hoonaard).
Her dedication to her research and teaching can only stem from her passion and love of learning. After retiring in 2016, van den Hoonaard continues researching and writing.
“I’m currently working on the third edition of my textbook and have data from a new study on women’s experiences as widows to write up—hopefully, as a new book. I’m also working with Alexandra Maren on a textbook on research methods for Oxford University Press,” she said. “I hope that I continue to be invited to speak to groups about ageism and widowhood. And, of course, I love being with my husband, wonderful adult children, and beloved grandchildren.”