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Communications program designer wins McLuhan prize
Richard Osicki has posthumously won the 2015 Medium and Light Award—a unique honour presented annually in recognition of the religious elements of Marshall McLuhan’s life and work.
McLuhan, who became a preeminent media theorist and public intellectual after graduating from the University of Manitoba in 1934, is best known for such concepts as the Global Village, Tetrad, and Figure and Ground, the latter of which is fundamental to his signature idea: The Medium is the Message.
But he was also a man of deep, Christian faith and in 1935 converted to Roman Catholicism, abandoning self-professed agnosticism. He undertook his scholarly work almost exclusively in Catholic institutions, and his Christianity became, and remains, an important lens into his professional life.
Not unlike McLuhan, Osicki (1946-2012) was at once a teacher, media theorist, and man of faith, and in addition to lecturing at Concordia University, Canadian Mennonite University, and St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, he played a leading role in shaping the Communications and Media program at Providence.
“This program is designed to ensure students have exposure to all this college has to offer, so that their media education is enriched by other academic disciplines,” remarked Osicki in 2005, a year after he began teaching at Providence.
Incidentally, the Nottingham, England-born scholar had never planned to take up a teaching career, although he later described education as one of three “paths” he travelled throughout his career—the other two being communications and religion.
Those paths converged perfectly at Providence, where the Media and Communications program remains an Osicki legacy.
“He helped shape the program at its very beginning,” says Dr. Nicholas Greco, Associate Professor of Communications and Media and Osicki’s successor. “I met him for the first time in 2008 and found him to be kind and gracious. I met with him next at a conference on McLuhan that took place at the University of Winnipeg in the fall of 2010. He continued to show interest in my own work and had a real fondness for the program here at Providence.”
On Sunday, October 18, Osicki was named the fifth winner of the Medium and Light Award—presented annually by The Marshall McLuhan Initiative at the St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba.
Given his body of work in communications (he invented the term “intelligent universe”) and commitment to Christianity he is an appropriate recipient.
McLuhan, as Greco points out, attended his local church on a daily basis and led a life rooted in Christian liturgy.
At the time of his death in October 2012 Osicki was director of The Marshall McLuhan Initiative—an organization that celebrates McLuhan’s faith and work.
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