U of W making, marking history

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Winnipeg businessman Sandy Riley works with numbers and people, and numbers, and more numbers, all day long.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2009 (4797 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg businessman Sandy Riley works with numbers and people, and numbers, and more numbers, all day long.

So when he gets home at night he doesn’t want to see more numbers. He wants text. And for him, that’s historical text.

"My real interest at night is reading history," Riley said at the opening of University of Winnipeg’s new history centre named in his honour, the H. Sandford Riley Centre for Canadian History.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Lorne Lucas, 23, heads to study in Bryce Hall.

"I want to encourage people to write and teach and talk about history. We don’t do enough to explain our history," Riley said.

That includes building up the University of Winnipeg history department’s reputation once again. It was once home to history giants like W. L. Morton and Jack Pickersgill, he said.

The new centre will also bring under one roof a variety of important history organizations including Canada’s National History Society, which publishes history magazine Beaver; the new Oral History Centre; the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies; the Plett foundation; and German Canadian Studies and Mennonite Studies. The university also has the Hudson’s Bay Co. archives nearby.

Also, thanks to a generous contribution by Riley, the university will have a fellowship to lure historians and famous speakers to the university.

"I had this idea, as chancellor, that University of Winnipeg should really be a serious centre of Canadian history," he said. Riley was the university’s chancellor the past nine years before handing off the voluntary post to Bob Silver last weekend.

So what history books have been on Riley’s night table recently?

"There’s a great book on George Simpson, the governor of the combined Hudson Bay Company and North West Company," he said in an interview. The book is called Emperor of the North, by James Raffan. "Simpson used to travel Western Canada by canoe, visiting trading posts with a bag piper and courier du bois, from spring until late November."

TREVOR HAGAN / FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Deborah and Sanford Riley relax Monday prior to the opening of the H. Sanford Riley Centre for Canadian History at Bryce Hall, University of Winnipeg.

He also gushed about a little known self-published book he found in a Kenora bookstore titled, In the Trenches. It’s the memoirs of Canadian Frank S. Iriam’s experiences as scout, observer and sniper during the First World War. The books is edited and published by Frank’s son Glenn Iriam.

He also praised newly published The Writings of David Thompson, the fur trader, writer and cartographer (1770-1857) who traversed over 90,000 kilometres of mostly Western Canada by canoe, sled and foot.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

 

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