What’s in a name

Naming and renaming landmarks on university property

The short section of Spence Street that forms a drop-off loop outside the University of Winnipeg has been renamed Marsha Hanen Way.

Photo by Daniel Crump

Students may have noticed the new campus Wi-Fi password, MarshaHanenWay1819. Rather than being just another network password, this one shares a name with the short stretch of Spence Street that runs through University of Winnipeg (U of W) property - the newly named Marsha Hanen Way.

Teresa Murray, the annual giving and communications manager at the University of Winnipeg Foundation, says six nominators felt it was about time the university honoured Marsha Hanen. The group brought the idea to the president’s office, and it was made a reality.

Hanen “was such a good president and has done so much for the university,” Murray says. “She was the first female president of our university and one of the first female (university) presidents across Canada.”

According to Murray, the reason for the street being named to honour Hanen - and not a building, wing or hall - is attributed to Hanen’s contributions to making that block of Spence Street a pedestrian-only pathway.

“We’ve put up a plaque that explains her contributions to campus, we put up banners, and very shortly, there will be an actual street sign with name blades that will say ‘Marsha Hanen Way,’” Murray says.

Denzel Membrere, a third-year student at the U of W, was unaware of the meaning behind the new Wi-Fi password and even more unaware that it represented the street naming.

“Something more could be done to spread awareness of her contributions,” he says.

As a student, Membrere admits to not knowing much about the U of W’s history but feels this is the case for many students.

“Once you spread the word of what (Hanen) contributed to the school, that’s when people start to care and get more involved,” he says.

Murray explains the reasons behind naming a university landmark after someone is usually to recognize a donation or to honour someone who has made a contribution to campus.

“When someone gives a very large (monetary) gift … they might request that a building be named in their honour, and sometimes we offer it, because it’s worthy of that,” she says. “An example would be the Richardson College or the Buhler Centre.”

“When it’s not donor-related, things are named to honour a person who has given back to the university or campus,” Murray says. “An example of this would be Marsha Hanen – even though she is a generous donor, the naming wasn’t related to her gifts, rather to all of the  work she did for campus.”

Murray names Douglas Leatherdale, a founding board member at the U of W Foundation, as an example of a donor who was honored by having a hall named for him.

“Dr. Leatherdale remembered Convocation Hall as a vibrant hub of activity, but over the years it started to age and deteriorate,” Murray says. “Leatherdale made multiple donations to help in restoring the hall to its former glory.

“We don’t have donors that give us millions of dollars just to put a name on a building,” Murray says. “They only give money if they care and if they have a connection to campus.”

Published in Volume 73, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 4, 2018)

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