Steven Schipper (left)/Harvey Secter

By MYRON LOVE
For Steven Schipper and Harvey Secter, the well-deserved honours keep on coming. The community leader and retiring Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director are two of six new inductees in the Order of Manitoba.

 

 

 

Created in 1999, the Order of Manitoba is intended to honour current or former Manitoba residents for conspicuous achievements in any field. Among previous Jewish inductees have been Sol Kanee, Israel Asper, Gail Asper, Jim Carr, Marjorie Blankstein and Doreen Brownstone.
“It is a little overwhelming,” says Secter. “You are never quite prepared for something like this. Many remarkable people are members of the Order of Manitoba. It is a real honour to be placed in the same category with people whom I have looked up to for most of my life.”
Secter was most recently recognized in November 2017, by the Manitoba chapter of the Association of Fundraiser Professionals for his outstanding fundraising efforts. Among Secter’s many other honours, awards and appointments are an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg, the Sol Kanee Distinguished Community Service Award from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and, with his wife, Sandra, the Negev Award for Community Service.
Secter was born into philanthropy. His parents, the late Joe and Gwen Secter, were leaders in philanthropy in the community. “I imbibed philanthropic giving with my mother’s milk,” he said in an earlier interview with this writer. He himself has had a distinguished career – actually several careers – in business (the Secter family owned Ricki’s Stores) and law. He served as the Dean of Law at the University of Manitoba from 1999 to 2008. Currently, he operates Harvey Secter Arbitration and Mediation.
He was elected as the new chancellor of the University of Manitoba in December 2010 and completes his third and final term this Friday. It was the University of Manitoba that nominated Secter for the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award for his leadership role as honourary chair of the university’s $500 million Front and Centre fundraising campaign – which has been described as the largest philanthropic investment in the history of the province. He has also served as president of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and as a member of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council, the Board of the Health Sciences Centre Foundation, the United Way advisory Committee, and the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. He has provided many years of service to a variety of other corporate, professional and philanthropic organizations as well. Secter’s fellow inductee, Steven Schipper, says that he is “humbled” to be included along with Secter in such select company. Just this past Monday, the long-time Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director was celebrated at the Concert Hall as the 2019 JNF Negev Gala honoree.

With 31 years at the helm of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Schipper was Canada’s longest-serving artistic director. In his time in Winnipeg, Schipper (who was also inducted into the Order of Canada six years ago) not only has had a major impact on this theatre’s theatre scene, he has also been a strong supporter of our city’s Jewish community and the State of Israel.
 One of the factors that originally brought the Montreal-born Schipper to Winnipeg was the fact his wife, actor Terri Cherniack, was born and raised here. But Schipper also had his own family connection with Winnipeg.
Schipper is the son of Holocaust survivors Jack and Regina Schipper. Jack’s first home in Canada was in Winnipeg, where he was sponsored by the Grubert family. It was a work opportunity that led him to move to Montreal in 1950- which is where he met and married Regina.
Schipper’s first interaction with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre was in the fall of 1986. “I was invited to direct ‘Brighton Beach Memoir’,” he recalled in an earlier interview. “We were living in Toronto at the time. Before the play opened, I prayed that it would be an unquestioned success. There was an opening for a new artistic director here and Terri and I were hoping to start a family and become involved in Jewish life here.”
Schipper’s prayer was answered. The play received overwhelmingly positive reviews and he was invited back for the 1987 season as associate artistic director. After two years, he was appointed sole artistic director.

Among the highlights of Schipper’s tenure at the RMTC have been a number of Canadian premieres of works: “Angels in America”, Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” and Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” - as well as plays by local playwrights.
He credits his success over the years to all the people – his team – with whom he had worked over the years.
Within the Jewish community, Schipper is a founding board member of the two-year-old StandWithUs Winnipeg, a group aimed at enabling Jewish students to fight against anti-Israel activity on university campuses. He is also a supporter of the Technion, as well as Winnipeg’s major Jewish organizations.
Although Schipper has accepted a new position in the theatre world in Brampton, Ontario, he and Teri are keeping their home in Winnipeg.
Steven Schipper and Harvey Secter will be joining their fellow Order of Manitoba 2019 inductees at Government House on July 18 for the official induction.