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Remembering Peter Herrndorf, alum, media mogul and friend of UM

February 21, 2023 — 
Peter Herrndorf in 2014 ImageCanadian Film Centre

Peter Herrndorf in 2014. // Image: Canadian Film Centre

Two-time alumn and community-builder Peter Herrndorf has died at the age of 82.

After graduating from the University of Manitoba in 1962 with a degree in English (he also received an honorary degree in 2006), he dedicated his career to championing the artistic life of the country through broadcasting, publishing, educational television and, finally, through the performing arts at the National Arts Centre where he served as head from 1999 until 2018. There, he is credited with establishing the NAC Foundation and NAC’s Indigenous Theatre Department.

“He had a big and consequential and important life, and [it’s] hard to put into words what he meant to us and what he meant to Canada,” his son Matthew Herrndorf said in an interview on Saturday.

Herrndorf held significant roles at major media outlets across the country, including CBC, where he helped develop long-standing series including The Fifth Estate and The Journal.

He believed artists and journalists were the key to enabling Canadians to understand the diversity and complexity of our national makeup. He trusted storytellers to define what it means to be Canadian.

When he was at the NAC, he championed the idea that, “Canada is our stage.” To colleagues who worked closely with him, this phrase—this mantra–meant that what happened on the stages of the national capital was important, but what was more important was ensuring voices across the country had opportunities to performing and tell our collective story.

As fellow UM honorary degree recipient and journalist Peter Mansbridge said of Herrndorf, a long-time UM donor: “He created. He inspired. He led.”

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