He’s a tattooed, hair metal guitarist, pseudo abstract artist, wrestling fanatic, proud hog driver. And university professor.
Not exactly the patched elbow, tweed jacket picture most would associate with academia, but Darren Blakeborough is likely one of the coolest profs the University of the Fraser Valley has had.
“I assume I don’t fit that [stereotypical] mould,” he admits. “But as my goal is to get students to question all those things that they take for granted or believe are common sense, let’s start with me. My first goal is to get them to think, and then to start thinking differently.
“Maybe I can kick start that before I have even said a word.”
Blakeborough is a professor in the social, cultural and media studies department at UFV.
On a cool spring afternoon, with the muffled sounds of heavy metal seeping up from his office in the “dungeon”, and a recorded 1982 wrestling bout between Ric Flair and Corey Von Erich paused on the TV, Blakeborough tells of his unconventional steps to profhood.
How he grew up in Prince George, and spent every weekend of his early years at his grandparents, most often watching wrestling matches with his grandfather. How, at 12 years old, when he was introduced to AC/DC by an older cousin, he instantly fell in love. How he started buying albums with his paper route money and grew his hair long and gravitated towards heavier and harder music.
Actions his mom chalked up as a phase, but something he knew would not fade.
“[Music] has so much power and feeling,” said Blakeborough, who, for 20 years, has been strumming guitar with Glam Chowder, currently an ’80s cover band.
Blakeborough owned a video store for 12 years, tried his hand at acting, worked summers for an asphalt company.
It wasn’t until he was 30 years old, with a wife and two kids, and “not a penny left” that he decided to go back to school.
Originally he had planned on a marketing and advertising career, but when he discovered the brilliance of research papers, he knew he was to be a lifelong learner.
“That’s when the lightbulb went off,” he said. “I could write academic papers on heavy metal, The Simpsons, wrestling, I was hooked. I wanted to learn more. I was only scratching the surface.”
Blakeborough has an associate of arts degree in broadcast arts from Columbia Academy of Radio, Television, and the Recording Arts, and an A.A. in media and communication studies from UFV. He also has a bachelor of arts in sociology and anthropology from UFV; a masters of arts in communication and cultural studies from the University of Calgary; and is a PhD candidate for communication and cultural studies from the University of Calgary.
For three years he’s been a professor and researcher at UFV, specializing in media studies and social gerontology, specifically media representation of age – a subject he was drawn to in an effort to make his grandfather, who passed away in his first year of college, proud.
Becoming a university professor was a way to extend his love of learning to the masses.
“I felt there was this incredible new world that was opening up and being presented to me by my professors,” he said. “I wanted to share that gift.
“The gift of understanding.”