The Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame Honours Marshall McLuhan, November 27, 2019

Bust of McLuhan by Madeleine Vrignon based on a 1935 photograph when he was 24

By Todd Lewys

It’s a saying that we’re all familiar with: “the medium is the message.”

And while most Manitobans would recognize Marshall McLuhan as the author of the groundbreaking statement, they might not know he spent his formative years in Winnipeg.

It’s only fitting, then, that the University of Manitoba graduate — who said technology would turn the world into a global village and who foresaw the formation of the world-wide-web — would be inducted into the WinnipegREALTORS® Citizens Hall of Fame in Marshall McLuhan Hall at the University of Manitoba on November 27.

As it turned out, the U of M was the launching point for McLuhan, who earned his [BA and] Masters in English Literature at the institution in 1934.

Shortly after, he left for England to continue his studies at the University of Cambridge.

After that, he taught English at universities in the U.S. and Canada before moving to the University of Toronto, where he taught media studies courses and wrote his seminal work, Understanding Media, in 1964.

“Marshall McLuhan was one of the most influential thinkers of the Twentieth Century,” said Andrew Smith, Conservative MLA for Lagimodiere, who spoke on behalf of the Premier of Manitoba, Brian Pallister. “His ideas had a global reach and inspired so many people.”

WinnipegREALTORS® president Kenneth Clark said that McLuhan — the 46th inductee to the Citizens Hall of Fame — was shaped by his time in Winnipeg.

“Stories have it that he would walk from his home on Gertrude Street through Osborne Village to the U of M campus, which in those days was on Broadway,” he said. “His induction takes on a special impact here at the U of M in the room that was named after him.”

Not only is the stately function room quietly spectacular with its glass and Tyndall stone walls, but so is the bust of McLuhan that was designed by Winnipeg-based sculpture specialist Madeleine Vrignon.

Taken from 1935 photo — she only had one image to work with — it perfectly captures the likeness of McLuhan, who was then in his early-to-mid-twenties.

“I think it’s a magnificent job. I love the work and am proud to have this part of Marshall’s life commemorated – it was just before he went to Cambridge,” said McLuhan’s son Michael, who flew in from Toronto to accept the 2019 Citizens Hall of Fame Award on his father’s behalf. “It’s also my first time in Marshall McLuhan Hall — it’s very impressive.”

McLuhan said his father would have appreciated the finely crafted sculpture and the 2019 Citizens Hall of Fame induction.

“He loved Winnipeg, and I know he would have been tickled pink to accept the award. It’s too bad it took over 30 years to get here,” he said with a laugh. “But better late than never. Thank you for this truly magnificent work, and the award.”

Founded in 1986 by REALTOR® Harry De Leeuw in collaboration with former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie, the Citizens Hall of Fame recognizes Manitobans who contributed to Winnipeg’s quality of life with exceptional achievements in leadership and community service. A link to all inductees, is available at (Source:

Marshall McLuhan’s son, Michael, talks about his father at the unveiling/induction ceremony held on Nov. 27/2019 in Marshall McLuhan Hall, at the University of Manitoba

WinnipegRealtors, in a news release, says McLuhan never forgot his roots in Winnipeg. He affectionately called Winnipeggers Winnipigeons. He wrote of the Western skies and horizons as one of the most beautiful things about the West. He spoke of how Winnipeg had a real human scale where the individual still has a significant dimension.

As McLuhan’s biographer Philip Marchand said in the text for the Marshall McLuhan Hall plaque, McLuhan was the foremost commentator on media and communications of the twentieth century.

“Building on a solid foundation and fertile ground, which Winnipeg provided McLuhan up until he left to pursue higher education and his field of expertise, it should not come as a surprise to Winnipeggers how their city has been an incubator for truly amazing citizens who are exceptional in their body of work,” says King. “Technology may be an enabler but McLuhan showed what the human mind is capable of producing and observing.” Source:

Michael McLuhan’s Talk at the Symposium that Accompanied the Induction: “Some Things My Father Told Me”

2 Responses to “The Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame Honours Marshall McLuhan, November 27, 2019”

  1. 1 Howard R. Engel

    I need to set the record straight as one who was instrumental in the nomination of Marshall McLuhan to the Winnipeg Citizen’s Hall of Fame in the first place and who collaborated in the planning of the sculpture itself. Let it now be known that Manitoba-based sculptor, Madeleine Vrignon who was commissioned by WinnipegREALTORS® to create the bronze bust of Marshall McLuhan, had access to at least five (5) images of her venerable subject, not just one. They included Marshall’s official University of Manitoba Brown and Gold 1933 yearbook portrait, two mid-1930’s portraits from the McLuhan Estate and 2 portraits of Marshall from 1967 when he returned to the University of Manitoba to receive his D. Litt. from his first post-secondary alma mater. The fact that Mme Vrignon had a multiplicity of images from which to work bears an even more eloquent testimony to her artistry that uncannily captures something of both the youthful promise and mature wisdom of MM at one and the same time that we who know him instantly recognize.

    Very truly yours,

    Howard R. Engel,
    The Marshall McLuhan Initiative
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


    • Howard, your rather terse note seems to imply that I erred in my posting titled “The Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame Honours Marshall McLuhan, November 27, 2019,” of 21 December, in reporting that the sculptor “only had one image to work with” in producing her bronze bust of McLuhan. But of course I could not attend this celebratory announcement of this honour to Marshall McLuhan in Winnipeg and have to rely on the information I am provided in order to be able to report on it in the McLuhan Galaxy blog. That statement originated in the Todd Lewys article in the Winnipeg Real Estate News that you sent me a link for. You state that the sculptor Madeleine Vrignon “had access to at least five (5) images” of McLuhan.

      In reality, McLuhan was one of the most photographed scholars of his time and anyone wanting photographs of him need only search in Google Images to recover several hundred images of McLuhan, although I assume that the bust produced by Madeleine Vrignon would have been of his likeness around the time of his graduation from the University of Manitoba in 1934. See These images can be expanded simply by clicking on them.

      I could add an editorial comment in brackets to my posting stating that Madeleine Vrignon was supplied with 5 images of MM if you like. Please advise.


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