Oct 202014

Researcher: Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman was awarded a Masters of Arts degree in 2013 by the University of Winnipeg.

Project Focus

Brenda’s MA thesis entitled, Called to be a Citizen: The Activist Life of Carl Ridd, explores the life and activism of Rev. Dr. Carl Ridd (1929-2003), a professional basketball player, a United Church of Canada minister and longtime University of Winnipeg religious studies professor. By documenting the life of this prominent citizen of Winnipeg, Brenda adds a fuller picture of Ridd’s life, work and activism to the historical record of the University of Winnipeg, the city of Winnipeg and the United Church.

Brenda writes, “As an undergraduate student three decades ago, I had heard Ridd speak about his conversion to social faith and his passion for peace, justice and human rights in Central America. I decided to focus on this conversion, what led up to it, and how it led to a life of activism. I came to this work shortly after Kristian Klippenstein, former staff person at the United Church Archives, had catalogued the 45 boxes of Carl’s papers. Since Ridd published very little academic work during his university career the legacy left in the papers donated to the Archives by his family was essential to uncovering his story. Many original materials in the collection formed the basis for my thesis.”

Brenda continues, “As a student, I knew him as a professor, but I didn’t realize all the causes he was engaged in, or the extensive research he did. Spending time with his archived papers, I now have a greater understanding of his passion for advocacy and activism.”

Research Findings

Ridd’s influence and impact on society went far beyond that of most professors. He was compelled to work for justice by a mid-life conversion to social faith and lobbied tirelessly for causes he believed in. One of his most notable campaigns was with Thin Ice, a group that opposed public funds for professional hockey. Ridd’s social activism and his teaching career inspired author David Bergen to develop the character Dr. Karle as a minor player in a novel.

Ridd was well known for his activism, but not everyone understood the basis for his commitment to social justice. He understood his public activism to be an expression of his Christian faith, and that his conversion to social justice influenced all the aspects of his life, including his teaching, his volunteer involvements, and his engagement as a citizen of Winnipeg.

The extensive collection of Carl Ridd's personal papers formed the basis for Brenda's exploration into his life and passion for social justice.  Photo credit: Brenda Suderman

The extensive collection of Carl Ridd’s personal papers formed the basis for Brenda’s exploration into his life and passion for social justice. Photo credit: Brenda Suderman

The John Carl Ridd Personal Papers Finding Aid is available on this site.


Brenda Suderman is a freelance journalist based in Winnipeg. Since 2006, she has written weekly news features for the faith page of the Winnipeg Free Press. She has worked for newspapers in Saskatoon, Portage la Prairie, MB, and Fort Smith, NWT. She studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa (B.J. Hons. 1988), theology at the former Canadian Mennonite Bible College (B. Th. 1983) and has graduated twice from the University of Winnipeg (B.A. 1984 and M.A. 2013). In 2013, she received the Ihsan Award from the Islamic Social Services Association for her work in building bridges between faith groups in Winnipeg. She has been a member of the UW Board of Regents since 2010.

Called to be a Citizen: The Activist Life of Carl Ridd is available at University of Winnipeg library.