Honorary degree citation - Leonard Ellen*
By: Martin Singer, December 2003
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Dr. Leonard Ellen, local businessman, philanthropist and long-time supporter of Concordia University.
Dr. Ellen was born in Montreal on September 23, 1925. Twenty years later, he married Bina Margolese and they have three daughters - Sherry, Ronna and Helaine. In just short of ten years, in 1954, he became the chairman of Leonard Ellen Canada Incorporated.
Dr. Ellen is a Montrealer who coolly, steadily built a financial empire worth over 15 billion dollars, while successfully retaining his anonymity. Time and time again, the one word that perennially arises alongside his name is "gentleman." He brings a dignity and politeness to his business dealings that are rare by today's standards, and yet has managed to succeed in a market known for its cutthroat competitiveness.
If you know Dr. Ellen, it's not surprising he has never had a hard time winning support for his endeavours. Early in his career, he traveled the Maritimes, selling to pharmacies before moving into clothing sales, and in the midst of these two competitive markets, Dr. Ellen managed to emerge successful. His innovative sales strategy involved setting up a number of central locations across his territory and bringing businesses to him. These keen instincts brought him much success, which he in turn passed on to those whom he chose to help.
Dr. Ellen has always been generous with both his time and his wealth, and has had a life studded with community involvement and philanthropic contributions. Among other things, he was the president of the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, the past president of the Caldwell Residences homes for the aged, and former member of the board of the Royal Victoria Hospital's Palliative Care Unit.
And of course, one cannot speak of his generosity without mentioning the work he has done for Concordia.
His relationship with Concordia began in the mid 1980s, when he joined Concordia's board of governors and became a member of its capital campaign committee. His experience in sales and his connections in the local business community proved instrumental in making that capital campaign a resounding success, and Dr. Ellen was singled out for as being the primary cause of that by campaign leader Bill Stintson.
Throughout his career, Dr. Ellen has made several philanthropic contributions to the arts, and Concordia was not spared this generosity. In 1992, Dr. Ellen made a commitment to a small, academically oriented gallery, and ten years later helped broker a $2-million endowment to address the staffing needs of the Gallery. That gallery bears his name, along with the name of his wife, Bina, and has become a museum of the highest standard, presenting artists and issues relevant to the multicultural milieu that is Montreal, all thanks to the continuing efforts of Dr. Ellen.
It is very safe to say that few, if any, have contributed to Concordia to the extent that Dr. Ellen has, and without his support, this university, and Montreal in general, would be quite different indeed.
Dr. Ellen is currently Chairman of the Concordia University Foundation, was awarded Honorary Life Membership in Concordia University Alumni's Association 1994, and received the Faculty of commerce Award of Distinction in 1991 and an Honorary Doctorate. Following active service as a member of Concordia's Board of Governors, Dr. Ellen was named a Governor Emeritus in June 2000.
Indeed, it would seem that the sole award unachieved by Dr. Ellen is that which he is here to receive today.
And so, Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Dr. Leonard Ellen, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.