Memorable Manitobans: Michael Ewanchuk (1908-2004)
Educator, school inspector, historian.
Born at Gimli on 14 March 1908, fourth child of Ukrainian pioneers Wasyl and Paraskeva Ewanchuk, who arrived in Canada in 1902 from Kopychentsi, Western Ukraine, he grew up on a farm two miles west of town, attended Dnister School and entered Gimli High School at the age of fourteen. Following high school, he worked for the Winnipeg Electric Railway and the Ford factory at Detroit. By working on the midnight shift, he was thus able to attend daytime classes at the Detroit Institute of Technology and Detroit City College (now Wayne State University). In 1930, he returned to Canada and attended Wesley (United) College and Provincial Normal School in Winnipeg.
After graduation, his first position as a teacher was at Beckett (Svoboda) School near Stuartburn. He later taught at Happy Thought School (1933-1934) and North Springfield School (1935-1941). It was at North Springfield that he met Jessie Muriel Smith (1905-1997, sister of Thomas Goldwin Smith), the primary teacher whom he later married. They moved to Cartwright where he had accepted the principalship of the high school (1941-1942). While in Cartwright he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force where he served as instructor of navigation and as Officer in Charge of Airmanship. As an instructor he had various Canadian postings at Saskatoon, Regina, Rivers, Rockcliffe, Moncton, and Dartmouth. He was happy that Muriel was able to join him in some of these locations. He also served as a personnel counselor to the retiring servicemen. His last assignment was as an instructor in mathematics and English with the C.V.T. He was discharged with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
While teaching, he also continued his own education, receiving BA, BEd, and MEd degrees from the University of Manitoba. Following his discharge from the RCAF, he became the first Ukrainian Manitoban to receive a permanent appointment as a School Inspector. He served in the Roblin-Grandview-Gilbert Plains inspectoral area and, after several years, he transferred to Carman and later to Winnipeg, where he served for twenty years as inspector of elementary and high schools, evaluating, in particular, instruction in science and mathematics at the senior grade level. His special assignment was the statistical analysis of the high school examinations then conducted by the Department of Education. He also lectured on the preparation and measurement of examinations.
During his years as a School Inspector, he served as President of the Manitoba Educational Research Council, University of Manitoba Alumni Association, Manitoba School Inspectors’ Association, Canadian College of Teachers, and Canadian School Superintendents’ and Inspectors’ Association (CASSI). He represented CASSI at the American Science Seminal in Washington, DC and at the conference of the American School Administrators in Chicago. He also served on various curriculum committees. In 1964 Premier Duff Roblin appointed him chair of a curriculum committee to prepare the first Ukrainian program of studies, and to select appropriate textbooks for the teaching of Ukrainian in Manitoba high schools.
His contributions to education have been recognized in many ways. He was a Honourary Life Member of the Canadian Association of School Administrators and of the Canadian College of Teachers. He received recognition from the Manitoba Modern Language Association.
In 1973 he retired as a School Inspector and began devoting his time to his avocation of writing. A lifelong supporter of the Ukrainian community, as a student, he was secretary of a Ukrainian students’ club, member of the International Students’ Club of the YMCA and member of the Ukrainian National Association. While at Normal School, he was a member of the P. Mohyla Institute at 11 Kennedy Street where he served as assistant to the Rector, was President of the Student Club “Prometheus,” and was active in the debating club. He was active in the Ukrainian Teachers’ Society. This interest was shown in writing about Ukrainian settlement and Ukrainians who have contributed to Canadian society. He was an Independent candidate for the Gimli constituency in the 1932 provincial general election.
Through the years he contributed articles to the Ukrainian Voice and American Svoboda. Then he began concentrating on an area in which he had personal life experience. He conducted historical research in various archives in Manitoba, in the national archives in Ottawa, the United States Archives in Washington, DC, and the Hawaiian Archives in Hilo and Honolulu. He was awarded a certificate, Hramota and a medal of recognition by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and received a certificate of recognition from the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in June 2000. For his many books he has received the Margaret McWilliams Award from the Manitoba Historical Society. For his contribution to education he was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Winnipeg, a Doctor of Canon Law degree from St. John’s College of the University of Manitoba, and a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002).
In his historical work he was encouraged and assisted by his wife. He called her his primary editor and proofreader. The couple celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1991. In 1992 she encouraged him to visit his ancestral village in Ukraine. Even though she had been ill at home with diabetes since 1980, and her condition was worsening, he took care of her at their home until her death. Encouraged by her memory, he reproduced 16 books with two volumes still in preparation at the time of his death.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
Among his books, all of them self-published, were the following:
Obituary [J. Muriel Ewanchuk], Winnipeg Free Press, 24 February 1997, page 25.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 August 2004.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 24 June 2023