Law & Society program founder leaves an enduring legacy

When the first class of five students graduated from York University’s Law & Society program in 1976, Professor Jane Banfield wore a proud smile. True to York’s motto – Tentanda Via – the program was the first of its kind in North America and one of the University’s first interdisciplinary programs.

Jane Banfield

The late Professor Emerita C. Jane Banfield Haynes (LLB ’54, MA ’59, PhD ’73) began teaching in the Division of Social Sciences at York University in 1968 and served for 30 years. She founded the Law & Society program in the early 1970s and served as the program director for many years. Banfield was also the University’s first advisor to the president on the status of women.

In 1966, she married Robert “Bob” Hall Haynes, a molecular biologist and geneticist, and the founding Chair of the Biology Department at York University. (Haynes served in this role from 1968-73.) Jane and Bob were a power couple, a true marriage of arts and science.

Colleagues recall that Banfield had a brilliant mind and valued interdisciplinary teaching and studies. She was active in organizations concerned with law and society. She held a law degree, but decided to deploy her substantial intellectual resources not in practising law, but in the service of the social sciences. She would often say, “the law is far too important to be left just to the lawyers.”

Banfield cultivated a scholarly interest in her colleagues and students. Her students valued her as a helpful, attentive and approachable professor. She was dedicated to student achievement – providing mentoring and opportunities to students whenever she could.

Robert Haynes

In addition to her tireless dedication to her students and colleagues, Banfield was also a loyal annual supporter of York University.

“Jane was very special,” says President Emeritus Ian Macdonald, recalling his own reasons for appointing her as the University’s first advisor on the status of women. “First off, Jane was a serious academic. Second, she was trained as a lawyer. And third, as a result of these two attributes, she was a no-nonsense person.” He added, “She was the type of person who wanted to get things done, and was very good at getting things done, particularly for women’s equal opportunity.

“Jane also had a good sense of humour and was a great friend,” reflects Macdonald. “She and Bob had a lively marriage and they were wonderful hosts. They were an influential couple at York, given their roles in the University’s two central Faculties of Arts and Science, and they were very helpful and supportive of my newly appointed position as president of York University.”

Banfield was instrumental in conducting a comprehensive study titled “Report to President H. Ian Macdonald, York University, of the Presidential Committee to Review the Salaries of Full-Time Faculty Women” that was published in 1976. The study compared the status, background, experience, academic credentials, teaching responsibilities and research performance of women to their “comparators” who were men. Macdonald said Banfield enjoyed this challenging role, which involved interviewing many female faculty, students and members of the administration. Her study resulted in salary adjustments to create more equity at the University.

Shortly after retiring from York, in 2004, Banfield brought her passion and dedication back to Vancouver, where she engaged with several community organizations.

Robert Haynes with Jane Banfield

In 2011, Banfield made an important decision to benefit York students. She became a founding member of York University’s White Rose Legacy Circle by including a bequest gift in her will to create new endowed scholarships at York University. Her generous gift will support student awards in LA&PS. One scholarship will benefit students in the social sciences and the other will assist women in the Faculty’s Bachelor of Commerce program. Both scholarships make a priority of helping graduates of York’s Bridging Program for Women. Banfield’s passion to serve York University and its students will now be permanently expressed through the C. Jane Banfield Scholarships.

When she decided to benefit students through her will, Banfield said that she felt compelled to give because the University had given so much to her. Her roles were more than a job or a salary, she said, noting that these roles were opportunities to work with amazing people. She was extremely proud of the Law & Society program, as well as the other leadership roles she held at the University over the years.

Banfield is described by those who knew her as a true inspiration. She was a visionary contributor to a culture that defines York University as a champion of interdisciplinary education, equity and justice. Through her thoughtful legacy gift to York University, the impact of her generous spirit will live on in many generations of students ahead.

To learn more about ways of leaving a gift to York University in your will, contact Tom McLagan (LA&PS) at 416-736-2100 or ext. 66690, or Marisa Barlas (gift planning) at 416-650-8221. Alternatively, visit