C.M.; O.M.; D.Litt.(W.Laur.)
Today we are honoured to welcome to our academic community an individual whose artistic ability, vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and devotion to the cultural and social betterment of her country have lifted her to the height of her profession.
Dr. Loreena McKennitt published her first album twenty years ago, which helped to lead the resurgence in traditional and modern Celtic Music in North America. The cultural and commercial success of her work around the world is a testament to the universality of her music.
Born in Morden, Manitoba and attended high school in Winnipeg, Dr. McKennitt began her artistic career with a move to Stratford, Ontario in 1981 where she acted, performed and composed music for the Stratford Festival of Canada. Dr. McKennitt's recording career was launched in 1985 with the album Elemental. As a successful entrepreneur, she founded her own recording label, Quinlan Road. Dr. McKennitt continues to be self-managed and produced, having sold over 13 million albums world-wide, a catalogue spanning seven studio recordings and a double live CD.
Dr. McKennitt's musical productivity is most inspiring, and includes such albums as The Visit, Parallel Dreams, The Mask and Mirror, The Book of Secrets, and Live in Paris and Toronto. Dr. McKennitt received her first Juno Award in 1992 for Best Roots/Traditional Album for The Visit, and again in 1994 for The Mask and the Mirror. In 1997, she was awarded the Billboard International Achievement Award. Dr. McKennitt's compositions for Theatre and Film include: Original music for The National Film Board of Canada documentary series Women and Spirituality, 1985-1989; The Merchant of Venice for the Stratford Festival of Canada, in 2001; Hollywood productions Highlanderlll and The Santa Clause; Canadian/Venezuelan feature film Una Casa Con Vista Al Mar and television soundtracks for The Mists of Avalon, Due South and Northern Exposure.
Dr. McKennitt's philanthropic, social and cultural work both in Canada and internationally is of noteworthy importance. Appointed to the Order of Manitoba in July of 2003, and the Order of Canada in May of 2004, she sets a precedent for her colleagues with her commitment to care for and benefit those far beyond the artistic community. Founding the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety in 1998, she has raised nearly four million dollars for the fund's initiatives in research and education. A major portion of the funds for the CRMF came from sales of the recording Live In Paris and Toronto. Funds from the sales of this double live recording in Turkey and Greece were donated to the earthquake relief funds of the Red Crescent Turkey and the Hellenic Red Cross. In 2000, Dr. McKennitt purchased a heritage building (Falstaff School) in Stratford, and in 2002 founded the Falstaff Family Centre, which offers facilities to a number of community based volunteer and not-for-profit community and family groups. Dr. McKennitt also established the Three Oaks Foundation, a charitable body that provides funding to cultural, environmental, historical and social groups.
Dr. McKennitt serves as an icon for our students and colleagues in the University tradition of collaboration and philanthropy. If they choose, and she has chosen, to find their own voice in the world, they will also have the potential to develop into leaders in the support of beauty in all aspects of life.Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to ask in the name of the Senate of the University of Manitoba, that you confer upon Dr. Loreena Isabel Irene McKennitt the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
-citation delivered by mentor, Dr. Dale Lonis, Dean, Faculty of Music