Paying it forward
Sharing and giving back are central to Susan and Jonathan Wener’s lives.
“We’ve been so fortunate and lucky,” Susan Wener says. “We both have a fundamental belief that we have not just a responsibility but an obligation to give back to others. We don’t live life just for ourselves — we live this life for one another and that’s what gives life true meaning. There’s an old African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’”
It’s a responsibility they take seriously and it extends far beyond financial support. Jonathan and Susan Wener are actively involved in several causes and organizations, both in leadership roles and as advisors.
In 1989, Jonathan Wener launched Défi Corporatif Canderel to raise money for cancer research after his wife was diagnosed with the disease. The initiative has raised more than $14 million to date. Susan Wener is a member of the Tumour Board at the Jewish General Hospital, a trustee of the Jewish General Hospital Foundation and a board member of Hope and Cope — an organization that provides supportive and compassionate cancer care.
“The most valuable gift we can give is time,” Jonathan Wener says. “Somebody who can’t give money yet is prepared to provide their assistance, wisdom and guidance to the university — that should not be looked upon as anything less than a magnificent gift.”
Education’s keystone role
Despite their numerous commitments, Susan and Jonathan Wener have never wavered in their support of higher education.
Jonathan Wener has sat on the university’s Board of Governors since 1995 and he played a critical role as chair of the Real Estate Planning Committee from 1996 to 2012 — a period of major expansion that saw the development of Quartier Concordia and construction of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex and John Molson Building.
He is also an honorary chair for the Campaign for Concordia. Next-Gen. Now, the university’s bold fundraising initiative with the goal to raise $250 million.
“A university education is so important,” Susan Wener says. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to open your eyes, ears and your mind to a bigger world than you might have imagined. You learn to listen and ask questions. It’s just a beginning, yet it’s a critical point in learning how to think and experiment.”
Jonathan Wener agrees. “I think university is an opportunity to discover your passion,” he adds. “I always tell students, don’t worry about the money — the money will come. Work on discovering and igniting your passion. Figure out what will make every day a new and wonderful experience so that work isn’t drudgery — it’s exciting and something you look forward to every day.”
He points to the marked decrease in overall government funding for universities in Canada. He says it is up to the private sector to step up and fill in the gap.
“Industries and individuals have to take leadership roles and invest in the future minds and leaders of our country,” he says. “We’re investing in brains to make a difference and ensure the future health and prosperity of Canada.”
Bram Freedman, vice-president, Advancement and External Relations, says the Weners are among Concordia’s greatest supporters.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Jon for over 20 years. The level of commitment and dedication Jon and Susan have shown towards Concordia is extraordinary,” Freedman says. “Besides their generosity of spirit, they have an undeniable passion for this university and they have been among our most ardent and effective champions. The Centre for Real Estate, combined with their many other contributions, will have a profound and lasting impact on Concordia and on our society.”