Peter Gzowski, CC, broadcaster, writer, editor (born 13 July 1934 in Toronto, ON; died 24 January 2002 in Toronto, ON). A Companion of the Order of Canada, winner of the prestigious international Peabody Award, and legendary host of CBC Radio’s “Morningside,” Peter Gzowski was above all one of Canada’s most accomplished and beloved broadcasters.
Early Life, Education, and Career
Great-great-grandson of the engineer Sir Casimir Gzowski, he grew up in the small town of Galt, Ontario, and was shaped by the disciplined traditions of Ridley College, an elite private preparatory school in St. Catharines, Ontario, and one of the oldest private schools in Canada. As a student at the University of Toronto, he edited the Varsity and covered sports, politics, and theatre, acquiring the passion for journalism which took him to jobs in Timmins, Ontario, where he wrote for the Timmins Daily Press, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where he wrote for the Times-Herald, and Chatham, Ontario, where he wrote for the Daily News. In 1958 his mentor Ralph Allen, then editor-in-chief of Maclean’s, invited him to join the magazine, where he became managing editor in 1962.
While at Maclean’s, Gzowski wrote features on a wide variety of topics, including profiles of NHL stars like Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, and Gordie Howe, as well as groundbreaking investigative pieces on the appalling living conditions of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. During a year spent in Montréal in the early 1960s, he became one of the first English-language journalists to write about the emerging Quiet Revolution in Québec.
A restless, versatile man, Gzowski also worked as the entertainment editor of the Toronto Star, as editor of the Star Weekly and (briefly in 1970) as editor of Maclean's.
Gzowski became a household name as the host of CBC Radio's lively, eclectic “This Country in the Morning” (1971–74), but his subsequent talk show on CBC-TV, “90 Minutes Live” (1976–78), was widely considered a failure.
It was not until he became the CBC radio host of “Morningside” in 1982 that Gzowski became a Canadian icon. “Morningside” was a three hour, five days a week morning show from 9:00 a.m. to noon that included up to 10 interviews per show. Guests ranged from leading politicians to writers as prominent as Alice Munro to complete newcomers to ordinary Canadians. Until the show closed in 1997 his curiosity, sensitivity and wit, combined with his patriotism and ability to project personal warmth, made him one of the best (and best-loved) broadcasters in Canada. It is estimated that over his career, Gzowski conducted some 30,000 interviews.
Excerpts from “Morningside” have been collected in numerous editions of The Morningside Papers and in The Morningside Years (1998).
Gzowski wrote several non-fiction books, notably The Sacrament (1980) and The Game of Our Lives(1981), the latter of which incorporated his profile of Wayne Gretzky for Saturday Night, which won a National Magazine Award.His columns for Canadian Living magazine have also been collected in two successful books, Canadian Living (1993) and Friends, Moments, Countryside (1998). At the time of his death from emphysema in 2002, he was working on a book on Canada’s north.
Of the many honours Gzowski received late in his career, he was proudest of an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, a Governor General's Award for the Performing Arts (1995), and being appointed Chancellor of Trent University in 1999, a position he held until his death in 2002. He also founded the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf tournament, now known as the PGI, which has raised some $13 million for literacy projects across Canada.