Dr Leon Deben passed away on 4 August last. From 1970 until his retirement in 2007, he worked as an urban sociologist in our department, most recently in the position of associate professor. With his long period of service he has left an important mark on the way in which urban sociology is taught and practised at the University of Amsterdam.
He initially specialised in construction and residential sociology, but gradually expanded his interests to include the sociology of public spaces. As an example, he and his students did extensive research on homelessness in Amsterdam. By its very nature, this research was carried out not at a computer from the safety of an office, but in the places where people's real lives unfolded: in the street. The city was his natural terrain.
Where he considered it necessary, Leon took managerial responsibility. Within the University he was the department chair. Outside the UvA, he led the Labour Party (PvdA) for Amsterdam’s City Centre District and was involved in a variety of social organisations. Although formally retired, he never really stopped working. He remained an inspired lecturer and continued to supervise Master's theses and assess doctoral theses. He could always be found organising yet another city excursion.
Leon was a cherished colleague, not least because of his ‘inability to argue’: he was passionate, but above all he was amiable, gentle and gifted with a sense of humour. He was a wonderful person and we will miss him terribly.