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Bina Ellen (1926 – 2023): Dedicated philanthropist and patron of the arts

‘It’s difficult to overstate the impact of [her] generosity’
August 22, 2023
By Ian Harrison, BComm 01

A woman with short brown hair smiles. She is wearing glasses, a pearl necklace and a black blazer with white stripes

Bina Ellen (née Margolese) — a foremost supporter of Concordia and co-namesake of the university’s Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery — passed away on August 8, 2023. She was 97.

Together with her late husband, Leonard Ellen, LLD 03, governor emeritus and past chairman of the Concordia University Foundation — who was mourned by the Concordia community a decade ago as a “gentleman who was passionate about [the] university and his city”  — Bina Ellen contributed to a number of causes as a philanthropist and volunteer.

With a focus on Montreal and the Jewish community, the Bina and Leonard Ellen Family Foundation has for decades improved the areas of health and community services as well as education, most notably at the Jewish General Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Concordia.

The couple’s long-time advocacy for the arts resulted in a new home for Concordia’s art gallery in 1992. The renamed Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery in the J.W. McConnell Building is today considered one of the finest university-based exhibition spaces in Canada.

“Bina Ellen’s enlightened presence and her generosity, along with that of her husband Leonard, were instrumental in providing the gallery with the resources to become a significant presence in Montreal,” says Michèle Thériault, director of the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery.

A photo of a husband and wife posing together smiling Leonard and Bina Ellen pictured together in 2005. | Photo: Concordia University Records Management and Archives

Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development (CAHD), where creative arts therapies are used to change the lives of people with special needs, also benefited from Bina Ellen’s financial support.

“Bina Ellen was a woman of compassion who felt deeply the essence of people,” says Lenore Vosberg, co-founder and senior associate director of the CAHD. “She decided to support the CAHD because she witnessed the performances of its clientele. She was determined to make a difference in their lives, and she did that with her generosity.”

Not only were the Ellens major donors to the university, notes Paul Chesser, BA 94, GrDip 97, vice-president of Advancement at Concordia, they were also actively involved and on hand to celebrate many campus milestones over the years. This includes the 20th anniversary of the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery in 2012.

“It’s difficult to overstate the impact of Bina and Leonard’s generosity,” says Chesser. “They encouraged the development of our world-class Faculty of Fine Arts with a significant gift to relocate its gallery, and they also helped broker an endowment to address its staffing needs in 2002.

“Bina Ellen’s dedication to her community, to Montreal and to Concordia will forever serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Bina Ellen is survived by her three daughters as well as a large extended family that includes many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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