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Honorary degree citation - Joëlle Berdugo Adler

By: Anne-Marie Croteau, November 2010

Madam President and Vice-Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Ms. Joëlle Berdugo-Adler, fashion industry powerhouse and philanthropist.

Ms. Berdugo-Adler is President and CEO of Diesel Canada Inc. and the driving force behind the ONEXONE (One by One) charitable foundation. Joey, as she is known, infuses her work and volunteer efforts with passion and action.

Born Joëlle Berdugo in Morocco, she moved at a young age first to France and later Switzerland before settling with her parents in Montreal. Like many immigrant children, she paid her way through school. She worked for marketing and promotional companies during the day and then studied Commerce full-time at Concordia University at night.

In 1984 she entered the fashion world working for Sergio Valente. By 1987 she and her husband Louis Adler had secured Canadian exclusivity for the Italian-based Diesel brand. The couple’s decision to put all of their resources in Diesel Canada in 1993 was a risk, but instrumental in building what became the enormously successful Canadian house of a world-leading denim brand.

Their keen understanding of the need to sacrifice early profits in favour of building a brand that differentiated the business was pivotal to the company’s success.

Après la disparition de Louis Adler en 2003, Mme Berdugo-Adler honore l’engagement philanthropique de son mari en créant en 2004 la Fondation Lou Adler, qui vise à recueillir des fonds au bénéfice d’associations caritatives œuvrant pour la lutte contre le cancer. L’organisme devient par la suite la Fondation UNXUN (un par un). Sa philosophie : chacun a le pouvoir d’apporter de profonds changements dans l’existence des autres. UNXUN a pour mission d’améliorer la condition des enfants au Canada, aux États-Unis et partout dans le monde grâce à des programmes axés sur des éléments fondamentaux : l’eau, la santé, l’éducation, le jeu et la nourriture. Ainsi, son programme de déjeuner pour les Premières nations permet de nourrir 3 000 enfants dans certaines des communautés les plus défavorisées du Canada et des États-Unis. En outre, UNXUN collabore avec l’organisme Feeding America pour soutenir le programme Backpack de lutte contre la faim chez les enfants.

On January 16, 2010, ONEXONE team members were on the first non-military flight to land in Haiti after the earthquake that devastated the country four days earlier. In the missions that followed, ONEXONE delivered $7 million dollars’ worth of goods including $5 million of medicine and medical equipment. ONEXONE remains committed to Haiti and recently announced $3 million to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art pediatric ward in the new Partners In Health hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti.

UNXUN s’est joint à la Clinton Global Initiative et s'est engagée à verser 100 000 $ pour la construction d'un centre communautaire complet, le premier à être dirigé par le gouvernement haïtien depuis le tremblement de terre. UNXUN travaille également à la mise en place d’un programme d’aide au
traitement du cancer dans les pays en développement.

Ms. Berdugo-Adler and her family are also the main benefactors for the Hope & Cope Wellness Centre that is now part of the Jewish General Hospital’s adjunct services. Known affectionately as Lou’s House, the Centre helps cancer survivors resume healthy lives with the world’s leading psycho-social cancer support programs available to them free of charge.

Ms. Berdugo-Adler also recently took presidency of Camp B’nai Brith, where she has been invaluable in finding and retaining the corporate funding to send 1,000 kids and 600 seniors to summer camp to have fun and build or restore their self-esteem.

She has also found time to serve as an elected councillor of Esterel for over a decade, where she puts her business savvy to being responsible for finances and security.

Joey Berdugo-Adler’s philanthropic efforts were recognized in May 2010 when she became the first recipient of the Laurie Normand-Starr Humanitarian Award. In June 2010 she received the I’m Philanthropic Power Award from The Foundation for Advancement of Women Now Inc. during the Mary J Blige Honors Women Week in New York City.

Madam President and Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Joëlle Berdugo-Adler so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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