Memorable Manitobans: Murray Samuel Donnelly (1919-2006)
Born at Port George, Nova Scotia on 23 July 1919, he began his schooling in a small one-room school in this fishing community along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. He graduated from Middleton High School and went on to Mount Allison University where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1940. He continued his education at the University of Toronto where he received his Masters Degree in Arts in 1946 and a PhD in 1956. He lectured at the University of Toronto (1946-1948), followed by a one year term at the University of Saskatchewan (1948-1949). In 1949, Murray accepted a teaching position at the University of Manitoba, followed later by a sabbatical year in 1959 as a Visiting Fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Upon his return he became Professor from 1960 until his retirement in 1987.
Over the span of his career Murray served as Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations and as Provost of University College (1966-1978). He also served as Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts. It was at University College that Murray found his calling in the days of student radicalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He regularly invited controversial and topical guest lecturers to the College, often challenging the very core of university values. Murray is remembered for being one of the teaching faculty seen participating in rousing debates with the radiator radicals named for sitting on the radiators lining the walls next to the junior common room in University College. Many of his students went on to become leaders in their fields.
In addition to teaching at the University of Manitoba, he served for several years on the Board of Governors and the University Senate. He was a member of two Commissions of Enquiry: the Manitoba Royal Commission on Local Government chaired by Roland Michener (1962-1964), and the Commission of Inquiry into Churchill Forest Industries (1971-1974) chaired by Mr. Justice Rhodes Smith. As a Constitutional expert, Murray acted as a delegate and advisor to the Manitoba Government at several Canadian Constitutional Conferences. He was invited many times to act as a political commentator for CBC radio and television during Federal and Provincial Elections and on the Canadian Constitutional initiatives. He was a founding member and member of the executive of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
He wrote two books, The Government of Manitoba (1963) and Dafoe of the Free Press (1968) as well as numerous scholarly articles. In his later years as an academic he developed a keen interest in the environment which continued throughout the rest of his life. Cross-country skiing, canoeing and golf were among his favourite pastimes.
In 1946, he married Margaret Nancy Chisholm Magee (1922-2022) and they had a son and a daughter.
He died at Winnipeg on 1 February 2006. There is a collection of his papers in University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 December 2022