John F. Brewster, Distinguished Service Award 2018

John Bewster
Distinguished Service Award

Professor John Brewster is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC). This award honours an individual who has played an important and substantial role in fostering the growth and success of the Canadian statistical sciences community through leadership in the SSC.

Growing up in Vancouver, John enjoyed playing baseball, football, golf and curling and it was also during this time, while in high school, that he met and dated his future wife, Leifian. John liked mathematics when he was in high school and he recalls that, when he was graduating, he was surprised to discover that you could actually study mathematics as your main subject at university. So he enrolled at UBC and obtained a BSc in honours mathematics in 1966.  

In 1967 John received an MSc in mathematics, with a focus on statistics, from the University of Toronto. He then returned to UBC, obtaining a PhD in mathematics in 1972, writing a thesis in statistical decision theory under the supervision of Jim Zidek. On graduation he accepted a faculty position in the Department of Statistics at the University of Manitoba, where he stayed for the rest of his career (with the exception of very enjoyable sabbaticals, notably to Stanford University, UBC and the University of Auckland).

During his career John taught a variety of courses, both applied and theoretical, and in 1983 he received the Dr. & Mrs. H.H. Saunderson Award for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Manitoba. John’s main research interests are in experimental design, foundations of statistics and statistical decision theory and he has supervised a number of graduate students working in diverse areas of statistics. John has consulted and collaborated extensively with companies and organizations in Manitoba and has given a number of workshops on experimental design in the aerospace, agri-food, mining and semiconductor sectors. John was also Director of the Statistical Advisory Service, Director of the Institute of Industrial Mathematics and Head of the Department of Statistics. He retired at the end of 2011 and is now a Professor Emeritus.

John and Leifian have two sons, Geoff and Jamie, who both reside in Winnipeg with their families. In retirement, the Brewsters enjoy watching their grandchildren playing hockey and soccer. They also enjoy golfing and dancing (ballroom, social and country), both in Winnipeg and in southern Texas, where they now spend time in the winter as snowbirds.

John has a long history of service to the statistical profession in Canada, beginning over four decades ago. This service, in fact, predates the Statistical Society of Canada!  In 1975, he was a regional representative on the Board of the Canadian Statistical Society, which later merged with the Statistical Science Association of Canada to form the SSC. John was also a regional representative on the inaugural Board of the SSC and over the years has served an additional five terms as a regional representative on the Board.  

John has taken on many prominent leadership roles in service to the profession. He served as President of the Statistical Association of Manitoba. He was also Chair of the COPSS Awards Committee and SSC’s Publications Committee, Election Committee, and Awards Committee. It was during his term as President of BISS that the Isobel Loutit Invited Address was established.

During his term as Secretary, John developed the SSC Handbook, which “introduced a large degree of systemization into the operations of an expanding Society.” This document has served as an invaluable resource, ensuring a measure of continuity with the yearly changes in our volunteer-driven Society. It continues to be relevant today, having in large part informed the newly-adopted SSC Operating Policies and Procedures Manual.

John made many significant contributions to the Society during his term as President-Elect/President/Past-President of the SSC (2010-2013). As President, he formed the Canadian Statistical Institute Development Committee (CSI:DC) which later led to the creation of CANSSI; he effectively mobilized the membership of the SSC to both support and get involved in the creation of a Statistical Sciences Institute in Canada. He oversaw the transition of the Census at School Canada program from Statistics Canada to the SSC; Census at School Canada continues today to serve as SSC’s flagship program for engaging primary and secondary school students in statistical reasoning. John was committed to engaging and providing a formal voice for the student members of the Society and, as Past-President, he led the development of the Student and Recent Graduate Committee; he worked closely with the inaugural Chair to set forth the structure and goals of the committee, which is now responsible for the successful Canadian Statistics Student Conference.

John Brewster has been a dedicated steward of the Statistical Society of Canada for more than four decades. In the breadth of roles he has undertaken, he has made visionary and long-lasting contributions to the Society. He also cares about SSC’s future and ensures that others are encouraged and prepared to serve the Society.

The citation for the award reads: 

“To John Brewster, for the breadth and long history of his service to the statistical profession in Canada; for notable contributions during his term as SSC President, including his leadership in the establishment of CANSSI, his oversight of the successful transition of the Census at School Canada program to SSC, and his vision in fostering the development of the Student and Recent Graduate Committee; and for his foresight in developing the SSC Handbook, which continues to inform SSC operations today.”


Thanks to Llwellyn Armstrong, who was primarily responsible for producing this material.