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Honorary degree citation - Aldo Bensadoun

By: Jonathan Wener, October 2012

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Mr. Aldo Bensadoun, founder and executive chairman of the Aldo Group.

Canadian business leader, philanthropist, visionary entrepreneur, early advocate for corporate social responsibility – these only begin to describe the passionate and dynamic spirit of our honoree, Mr. Aldo Bensadoun.

The son of a shoe merchant and grandson of a cobbler, he founded the ALDO Group in 1972. This privately held, Montreal-based company is internationally known as a leader in footwear with a reputation for reshaping the industry.

Aldo Bensadoun effectue ses études primaires et secondaires en France avant de fréquenter l’Université Cornell et de recevoir un baccalauréat en commerce de l’Université McGill. Grâce à son diplôme, il obtient par un heureux hasard un poste en recherche commerciale chez un détaillant de chaussures local. Après un certain temps, son intime connaissance de l’industrie de la chaussure, sa passion créatrice et son esprit novateur l’inspirent à lancer sa propre affaire. Selon M. Bensadoun, « les compagnies à succès construisent leur entreprise à partir de leurs bases fondatrices tout en regardant vers l’avenir ». Il croit que pour réussir, il faut comprendre le client et contribuer à son bien-être par les produits et services qu’on offre. Cette philosophie simple, mais profonde, est à la source de l’innovation constante qui caractérise les concepts de vente au détail et les marques du Groupe ALDO.

The ALDO Group operates more than 1000 retail stores across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, under 4 distinct brands: ALDO, Call It Spring, Little Burgundy and Globo. Specializing in footwear and accessories, the ALDO Group is dedicated to the design and production of high quality, trend-driven, and accessibly priced fashion, season after season. The ALDO Group has successfully expanded into 76 additional countries with over 600 franchised stores - recently adding new locations in India, Russia, Italy, Spain, France, Mexico and Vienna.

Mr. Bensadoun is actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the company along with his wife Diane and continues to direct the strategic growth of the business. From the out-set, Mr. Bensadoun has had a people first approach, to ensure that every person is afforded the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. The ALDO Group, with its focus on human development, has established itself as an industry leader in recognition and incentive programs by acknowledging the distinguished achievements of its people. He indeed has a very extended family as the people in his life are celebrated every day. Just do an operations tour with him as I have done and see the pride and wonderful relationship he has with each and every member of his staff. He has built a magnificent facility complete with athletic facilities and common areas all to encourage an enriching work environment for his most important asset, his people. At Concordia manufacturing professor once taught “machines depreciate people appreciate, invest in people”. Aldo has learned this lesson well and uses extensively in the successful running of his business.

In addition to his involvement with various industry associations such as the Retail Council of Canada, the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National Retail Federation, he is a board member of Aritzia - a Canadian fashion brand with increasing international and celebrity appeal, and Hope and Cope - a Montreal based, non-profit organization that has served as a model for its unique psychosocial approach to cancer care.

Longtemps avant que le concept de responsabilité sociale de l’entreprise soit connu, M. Bensadoun était résolu à en faire une pierre angulaire de ses affaires, favorisant par ses efforts l’enrichissement des communautés où nous vivons et travaillons. En tant que Canadien pour qui la citoyenneté n’était pas un droit acquis à la naissance, il est reconnaissant des possibilités offertes par ce pays. Il n’est pas rare pour M. Bensadoun, en compagnie de ses collègues et amis, de prendre part à des collectes de fonds et de consacrer bénévolement son temps à des causes d’envergure communautaire ou internationale. En effet, qu’il s’agisse de l’éducation, du bien-être collectif, de la médecine ou des arts, redonner a toujours été pour lui une seconde nature.

Le Groupe ALDO s’est notamment joint à la lutte contre le sida en 1985, bien avant que ce soit à la mode, devenant l’une des premières entreprises à appuyer ouvertement cette cause. Cet engagement a permis d’amasser plus de 10 millions de dollars en dons destinés à divers organismes et œuvres de bienfaisance du monde entier.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and honours – among them he is a companion to the Order of the Business Hall of Fame, Officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a Concordia University Award of Distinction, and the recipient of an honorary degree from McGill University. These are only a selection of Mr. Bensadoun’s many honours – yet he has remained as unpretentious and sincere as ever.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Mr. Aldo Bensadoun, so that you may confer upon him the degrees of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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