Meet the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service recipient
Learn about Howard Morry’s journey from student to community builder and advocate
When Howard Morry [BComm(Hons)/81, LLB/84] decided he wanted to write for The Manitoban on his first day at UM, he walked right into the office, pitched an article and made it happen. His tenacity has not wavered much since then in either his legal career or dedication to his community. From an early age, Morry was introduced to community activism and encouraged to be deeply involved in youth organizations.
“Like many communities, the Jewish community has a tradition of volunteerism, leadership and philanthropy, and growing up I watched my maternal grandmother take that to heart,” he says. “She didn’t have much of her own, but she was still always out joining committees and volunteering for everything. She was a great role model for me, and as I grew up, I started getting involved at different levels and realizing where I could add value to different organizations.”
Morry has volunteered extensively in the Jewish community, serving as the president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, regional president, national board member and national New Leadership Chair of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University and has held a variety of leadership roles among other Jewish community organizations. In the general community, he has served as President of a Rotary Club, the founding Chairman of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors, Chair of the Lawyers Division of the United Way, to name a few.
“I had tons of energy and lots of vision and big networks, and I think because of that I became the youngest president, chairman, leader of several organizations. I was really working hard to try and make a difference,” he says. “I learned a lot through trial and error and made some mistakes, but I always fell back on advice I received from my mentor, Izzy Asper [BA/53, LLB/57, LLM/64, LLD/98]. He liked to say ‘Shoot for the stars. You’re going to fail more often than you succeed, but when you fall, you’re going to fall to the same place. So, you might as well shoot higher and then if you can achieve that, you know you’re achieving more than you thought possible.’”
Throughout his career, Morry has also worked with many Indigenous organizations, including the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and is highly regarded by First Nations, Inuit and Métis political and business leaders for his wisdom, sage advice and mentorship. Morry has proven exceptional in his openness and commitment to understanding and then representing the rights and views of Indigenous peoples in Canada, often challenging the status quo. He is a passionate advocate for economic Reconciliation, believing that this is essential to building a strong, healthy and inclusive Canada.
“I’ve always said to people you’re not going to change the world, but maybe you can change your part of the world. What I’ve always tried to do is understand my strengths and my skill set and apply that to this work – no, better or worse than anybody else, but I’ve chosen organizations where I felt I could make a difference.”
Morry is widely known as a committed human rights advocate, both in Canada and internationally. He is keenly aware of the vital need to foster education to develop greater understanding and communication among diverse populations. He was one of the founding members of the Arab-Jewish Dialogue, dedicated to encouraging positive relations and respect between Arabs and Jews in Canada and has worked with hundreds of supporters of peace in the Middle East to promote respect, dignity, tolerance and diversity.
For over two decades, Morry has been a part of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and led the Manitoba Capital Campaign initiatives. As a result, the Capital Campaign was a success and enabled the CMHR to be built without compromise, with over 75 per cent of the $150 million Capital Campaign coming from Manitoban donors. Today, Morry continues to sit on the Board of the Friends.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do was leave this world a better place than the way I found it,” he says.
His dedication to education has been constant. He has been on the executive of the University of Manitoba Business School Foundation (the Associates) for many years, and the Commerce Students Association at the Asper School of Business honours him every year by holding the Howard Morry Leadership Conference.
Some people spend a year or two with organizations, but when you look at Morry’s volunteer activities it’s clear he’s committed to lifelong community leadership. In 2011, he was awarded The Max and Mollie Shore Award for community work. Morry just received the Sol Kanee Distinguished Community Service Medal, a lifetime achievement award for dedicated leadership and service to the Jewish community. And this year Morry will receive the University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service.
“I’m so appreciative of this award. It’s especially meaningful to me because my son, Josh Morry [BComm(Hons)/13, JD/16], won the Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Young Alumni a few years ago (2020). My wife, Hope, and I are so proud of both Josh and our daughter Samantha [BA/18, JD/21],” he says. “When I learned I won this award, Chancellor Mahon said to me ‘like son, like father’. I told my son this. I said, ‘I’m following in your footsteps’. For a dad, you know, that’s everything. It is one of those wonderful moments when you do feel validated to continue doing the good work.”
The 2023 University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence presented by TD Insurance will be held on September 21, 2023. For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, visit our website.