He took the show on the road in 1998 and would continue to bring his highly successful tour across North America until his illness forced him to stop in 2015.
McLean turned the show’s stories into a number of bestselling books. Three of those earned him the prestigious Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour: Home from the Vinyl Cafe (1999), Vinyl Cafe Unplugged (2001) and Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe (2007).
McLean also taught broadcast journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto from 1984 to 2004 and then became a professor emeritus. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011 and received honorary degrees from a number of Canadian universities, including Concordia in 2014.
Catherine Bolton, Concordia’s vice-provost of Teaching and Learning, read McLean’s honorary degree citation at Concordia’s June 2014 convocation. “I was very saddened to hear of the death of Stuart McLean,” she says.
“When I met him, I found him to be a warm and sincere person, humble about his storytelling talents and his wonderful ability to make us laugh and cry at ourselves. We have lost a voice of humour, of compassion and of humanity.”
“One of the first book reviews I ever wrote as a graduate student was on a first edition of Stories from the Vinyl Café, around 1995,” recalls Jill Didur, professor in Concordia’s Department of English. “I brought that book I reviewed almost 20 years earlier to the convocation ceremony, and Stuart signed it for me.”
Didur also participated at that convocation. “It was such an honour to hood him during the ceremony,” she says. “It does seem like Stuart and the themes of his work epitomize the kind of students Concordia often attracts — curious, kind, interested in learning from others around them, and committed to serious reflection on their own experience of the world.
She adds, “He will be missed but he has also left a wonderful legacy of writing and recordings for us to treasure.”
At the convocation, McLean asked the graduating students to focus not on society’s ills but on what’s working, and to contribute to society as much as they can.
“Your choice is how you will accept the responsibility of citizenship,” McLean said. “Do it joyfully. Spread optimism rather than cynicism; act with the understanding that we are all in this together.”