Media executive and former National Arts Centre (NAC) President & CEO Peter Herrndorf passed away Saturday. He was 82.
Born in Amsterdam and raised in Winnipeg, Herrndorf started his career as a reporter at CBC Winnipeg in 1965 after graduating from Dalhousie University with a law degree. He joined CBC Edmonton as a current affairs producer later that year, moving to Toronto a few years later as producer of network current affairs show, The Way It Is. After obtaining his MBA at Harvard, he went on to serve as Head of TV Current Affairs from 1974-77, rising to the position of Vice President of English Services and Special Assistant to the VP and General Manager of CBC’s English network by 1979. Among other legacies, he is credited with helping found nightly current affairs magazine, The Journal, and later served a five-year term on the CBC board of directors, starting in 2005.
Former CBC News senior correspondent Peter Mansbridge was among those who paid tribute to Herrndorf on social media, saying he was “brilliant in all he touched.”
“He created. He inspired. He led. The CBC’s best days were with him at the helm,” wrote Mansbridge.
Peter Herrndorf was brilliant in all he touched. He created. He inspired. He led. The CBC’s best days were with him at the helm. Ditto Toronto Life. TVO. NAC. And so much more. RIP boss, mentor, friend.
— Peter Mansbridge (@petermansbridge) February 18, 2023
Herrndorf went on to become publisher of Toronto Life from 1983 to 1992 and then Chairman and CEO of TVO from 1992 to 1999, when he stepped down. Later that year, he was appointed President & CEO of the NAC in Ottawa where he served until 2018. Among other endeavours, he was instrumental in establishing the National Arts Centre Foundation, NAC Indigenous Theatre, and led the $225.4M NAC building renewal project.
Peter Herrndorf was one of this country’s legendary journalistic, arts, and cultural leaders. @CBCNews, @torontolife, @tvo, @CanadasNAC, & @Luminato all benefited mightily from his efforts. RIP, my friend and mentor. #Obituary pic.twitter.com/8bMxCrRas8
— Steve Paikin (@spaikin) February 18, 2023
Herrndorf’s other contributions to the arts included helping establish the Governor General Performing Arts Awards with entertainment industry executive Brian Robertson in 1992. He served as Chair of the Stratford Festival and at the time of his passing was Chair of the Luminato Festival. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993, and upgraded to Companion status in 2017. In 2007, he was awarded the Order of Ontario.
Flags at the NAC will fly at half-staff for the remainder of February, in tribute to Herrndorf.
“Peter Herrndorf had an enormous impact on the performing arts in Canada,” said NAC President & CEO Christopher Deacon. “He fundamentally believed that the National Arts Centre belongs to all Canadians, and that it must reach out beyond its home on Elgin Street to Canadian artists, arts organizations, and communities in every part of the country. For nearly 19 years, that belief informed his vision. He was also unfailingly kind and interested in each and every person – artists, staff and audience.”
Peter Herrndorf leaves a remarkable legacy of service in Canadian journalism and culture. As chairman and CEO of TVO from 1992-1999, his leadership pushed us to new heights and we are eternally grateful. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and many friends across Canada. pic.twitter.com/dR84DaxGn2
— TVO (@tvo) February 19, 2023
We are saddened to learn of the loss of Peter A. Herrndorf, C.C., O. Ont. Peter joined the Board of Luminato as a founding Director in November 2006, and assumed the role of Chair in September 2018. To everyone at Luminato, Peter was a leader, mentor, advisor, and friend. pic.twitter.com/oith9wkaP6
— Luminato Festival Toronto (@Luminato) February 18, 2023
RIP Peter Herrndorf – a new Canadian who made a better Canada. A champion of broadcasting and the arts – one of the good guys. Thoughts are with Eva and the family. pic.twitter.com/8HYdZQ6dE3
— Rick Mercer (@rickmercer) February 19, 2023
Many of us who worked @CBCRadioCanada think of Peter Herrndorf as the greatest president we never had.
He understood, supported, and championed the idea of public broadcasting, a concept recent CBC leaders have lost sight of, in their pursuit of paid content and reality TV. https://t.co/LXL42q9iJT
— Talin Vartanian (@CitizenTalin) February 18, 2023
I mourn the passing of the incomparable Peter Herrndorf who entrusted me with the Fifth Estate nearly 50 years ago. Good night sweet prince!
Peter Herrndorf, ‘Renaissance man’ of Canadian journalism and arts, dead at 82 https://t.co/MJ5CRGbsph
— Adrienne Clarkson (@APClarkson) February 19, 2023
#PeterHerrndorf was a good man. He was warm, witty, decent & kind. He had vision, integrity and was authentic. He was an indefatigable champion of the arts, and steadfast protector/promoter of public institutions in Canada. He was a cherished leader who had so much to teach. https://t.co/O4CU6VMobG
— Adrian Harewood (@CarAdrianH) February 19, 2023
Peter Herrndorf’s impact on and passion for Canada’s public broadcaster was profound. Beyond his huge influence on CBC’s programming, he made a difference in so many careers and always with kindness and wisdom. Peter left the CBC in 1983 but his legacy lives on 40 years later.
— Chuck Thompson (@ChuckTCBC) February 18, 2023
Peter Herrndorf died this morning. He was 82 years old. He was my boss at TVO. Peter was model of a public broadcaster. Broadminded, non-partisan, a lover of all things smart and innovative. They don’t make them like him anymore. Pity that. May his memory be a blessing.
— Wodek Szemberg (@wodekszemberg) February 18, 2023
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