Skip to main content

Maria Birks (1945 – 2023): Philanthropist and community volunteer

‘The Concordia family has lost a cherished partner and supporter’
December 21, 2023
By Louise Morgan, GrDip 99

Portrait of a couple: long-haired woman wearing a white sleeveless dress and necklace, and man wearing a dark, 3-piece suit with white shirt and blue tie with white pocket scarf Maria and Jonathan Birks

Maria Birks, former director of the Birks Family Foundation and a dedicated community volunteer, passed away on November 19, 2023. She was 78.  

The Birks family’s support of Concordia dates back to the 1930s and the early days of Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s two founding institutions. This legacy endured in recent years thanks in large part to Jonathan and Maria Birks.

Through its foundation, the family has funded numerous student awards as well as innovative projects like the Concordia University Press, which became the first open-access press in Quebec when it was launched in 2016.

Notably, the family generously strengthened the efforts of the Centre for the Arts in Human Development to use creative arts therapies to improve the quality of life of its participants — a mission Maria Birks felt passionately about.

“The Concordia family has lost a cherished partner and supporter,” says Paul Chesser, BA 94, GrDip 97, vice-president of Advancement. “We are grateful for Maria’s contributions to key initiatives and programs at our university, and for her generosity towards our students and community.”

Maria Birks was active in the Montreal community, particularly in the areas of health, education and the arts. Her involvement ranged from I Musici di Montréal and Opéra de Montréal, where she served as director, to co-chair roles with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Ball, the Montreal Breast Cancer Annual Luncheon and the Young Presidents’ Organization Regional Conference.

A co-founder of Casa Inca, a retail outlet of Peruvian clothing, accessories and furnishings, Birks was also co-founder and director of the Montreal Toy Tea, a holiday gift drive for children living in women’s shelters.

Together with Jonathan Birks, Maria Birks received an Honorary Life Membership Award from the Concordia University Alumni Association in 2008.

Maria Birks was born Maria del Carmen Denegri in 1945 in Lima, Peru, where she earned her BA from the Universidad Catolica de Lima. She is survived by her husband of 53 years, five children and seven grandchildren.

Back to top

© Concordia University