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Donor of the Month: Marlene Milne

Wed. Sep. 1, 2021

Marlene Milne

United College and UWinnipeg Graduate Marlene Milne shares her story

As a lifelong learner, Marlene Milne (nee Martz) has been a part of the UWinnipeg community for over 60 years. Moving between active student and alumni throughout her professional career, Marlene has the unique distinction of being a graduate of both the United College and The University of Winnipeg. After receiving a scholarship for a second year at United College in 1959, Marlene has since received her Bachelor of Arts (1962), a Bachelor of Education (1969), a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art History (1986) and her Post Baccalaureate in Drama Education (1989)—ending finally in 2016 with her Masters in Fine Arts. Despite the obvious breaks in her academic career, Marlene never truly left the classroom behind, choosing instead to successfully swap her spot behind her student desk for that of a teacher’s. As a recent graduate, Marlene taught grade 9-12 English, French, and grade 12 Chemistry in Elkhorn (1962-63).

Given her history as a student of the fine arts, it should come as no surprise that Marlene entrenched herself in Winnipeg’s own art scene from an early age. Recognizing her budding interest in the field during her undergrad, a handful of Marlene’s teachers were keen to help broaden her understanding of the world of art. Marlene credits her French teacher, Dr. Leathers, with helping inspire and expose her to the likes of classic painters such as Rembrandt and Rubens. In 1963 after saving her school salary and hard-earned summer funds from working at McLeod’s and Rainbow Stage, Marlene set off alone on a 9-month tour through Europe, taking time to stop at many of the famous galleries found on the continent.

After returning, Marlene taught in Oak Lake for two years and soon after took an offer to teach at St. Vital in Winnipeg. In 1967, she married fellow Collegiate graduate, Don Milne, and by 1972 had two children of her own. Prior to the birth of her children, she had finished her Bachelors of Education (1969) and continued to take evening classes as she worked towards a Bachelor’s in Art History. After her children were old enough to get on the school bus themselves, Marlene focused her efforts on building the Cardigan/Milne Gallery with a handful of colleagues—by 1978 she was not only a partner, but a Director and Curator. During this time, Marlene stayed close with her Alma Mater, helping the University’s own IC03 Gallery on multiple occasions while at the same time staying connected with many of her peers through the Faculty Club. After returning to full-time teaching in 1986, Marlene taught Art and Drama in St. Vital until retiring in 2001. Wanting to stay involved in the local scene, for the next five years she co-directed with former partner, Gary Scherbain, at the Wah-sa Gallery, a forum for Indigenous artists.

Having made her first donation in 1987, Marlene has been an active member of both the University’s community of donors and broader community of Alumni. When asked about what inspires her to give, she goes on to say that, “the Foundation understands where the student body needs the most support. The awards and bursaries they develop go a long way in helping recognize UWinnipeg’s most hardworking and dedicated students.” Beyond her involvement as a donor, Marlene is also a part of University of Winnipeg Club. During her time as a member, and member of the Board, Marlene helped plan upgrades to Wesley Hall’s top floor, including the addition of a corner library—an homage to the original layout of the club space during the early days of the University. She also managed a series of successful documentary nights related to Winnipeg, with many of the films being sourced from the University's library.

For someone who has seen the University develop a great deal in the 60 years since they first attended, Marlene is keen to point out how far the campus has come with respect to its accessibility and inclusivity as a post-secondary institution. Looking back to 1959, Marlene says that, "friendships quickly emerged between students regardless of their background. Since then, the student body has changed enormously, and so has the range of staff. With many students coming from other countries, I am proud to say that the University is well-equipped to help foreign students succeed here in Winnipeg through facilities like Merchant’s Corner.”

Looking forward to staying close with her son, daughter, and grandchildren, she plans to move to Ottawa with her husband later on this year.