Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: William John Spence (1879-1957)

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William John Spence
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Born in Dimmer Township, Peterborough County, Ontario on 23 January 1879, son of John and Mary Spence, he was educated at a country school at the Norwood Collegiate Institute at Peterborough, Ontario, as well as Victoria College and the University of Toronto. He came to Manitoba in 1901 where he was a Lecturer at Wesley College, and Educational Director of the Young Men’s Christian Association (1906). He was appointed to the position of Registrar at the University of Manitoba in 1910, and was Secretary of its Board of Governors. He retired in 1946, having overseen a period of incredible growth in the facility over a 36-year period.

On 1 June 1905, he married Mary Alice Clements (1878-1973) at Winnipeg. They had four children: Mary Kathleen Spence (1906-?), Howard Spence (1909-?), Marjorie Berta Spence, and Ernest John Hamilton Spence (1915-?). In 1911, he lived at 154 Walnut Street and later at 440 Waverley Street, Winnipeg. He was a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Augustine United Church, Mentors’ Club, Canadian Club of Winnipeg, and the National Club. In 1931, he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba.

He died at Winnipeg on 28 February 1957 and was buried in the Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens.


Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

1916 Canada census, Ancestry.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

University of Manitoba Yearbook 1916-1917, University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.

“Longtime U Registrar dies at 78,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 March 1957, page 12.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 March 1957, page 31.

We thank Scott Greenlay and Alison McNeill-Hordern for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 23 October 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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