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Honorary degree citation - Mel Hoppenheim

By: Peter Rist, June 2009

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Mr. Mel Hoppenheim: creative thinker, business leader, philanthropist, and benefactor of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University.

Mel Hoppenheim is a modern-day business pioneer with a penchant and passion for the arts. As president of Mel’s Cité du Cinéma, he has built world-renowned film and television studios that have also propelled local moviemaking to astonishing new levels.

As a philanthropist born of modest roots, he has shared his good fortune by supporting noble causes such as education and healthcare, and by giving back to the community. His generosity has also spawned a dynamic generation of young filmmakers here at Concordia.

S’il y a une chose que Mel Hoppenheim peut nous apprendre, c’est bien la valeur de l’autodiscipline. Il s’est armé d’un solide sens de l’éthique du travail dès son jeune âge. Au lieu de jouer avec ses camarades après l’école, il consacre ses soirées à faire des livraisons pour le cordonnier du quartier, et il fait de petits boulots la fin de semaine. 

In 1965, he started building his own company from the ground up. He ventured into the movie business – an industry he knew little about – and created Panavision Canada, a film equipment rental company. Working diligently to improve their services, Mr. Hoppenheim quickly established himself as an industry leader. Over the next decade, he opened facilities in Toronto, Vancouver, and Israel.

Convaincu que Montréal recèle un potentiel de croissance énorme, Mr. Hoppenheim a créé : Mel’s – Cité du Cinéma, un plateau d’enregistrement à la fine pointe de la technologie. Les productions hollywoodiennes à gros budget commencent alors à faire appel aux services de l’entreprise et contribuent ainsi à revitaliser l’industrie du cinéma à Montréal en plus de créer des centaines d’emplois.

Today the company has thrived and now boasts over $60 million worth of movie-making equipment to serve filmmakers.

Mel has demonstrated unwavering support for the Montreal community and particularly to the development of up and coming filmmakers at Concordia. In 1997, the renowned Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema was established in recognition of his generous contribution to the department. Every year, the school honours the best graduating film production student with the Mel Hoppenheim Award. In addition to supporting emerging artists here, he and his partners have also helped in the development of the Institut National de l’Image et du Son, better known as INIS, a respected private film and television school in Montreal.

Mel serves on the Board of Directors of Loto Québec, The Montreal Heart Institute, and the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Furthermore, Mel presided over the 2002 Federation CJA, Combined Jewish Appeal campaign. He worked tirelessly to reach out to members of the Jewish community to raise awareness about poverty, to care for the elderly, to promote education, and to combat anti-Semitism. Through his leadership, he helped raise a record $40 million for Montreal’s needy.

Because Mel Hoppenheim has done so much for the Canadian economy and established Quebec’s reputation as a film industry hub; because he has invested in higher education and established a world class film school in Montreal; because he embodies the highest work ethic; because his stellar community leadership and philanthropy have empowered so many and offered so much to students, Mel Hoppenheim is a shining example of the values to which Concordia graduates should aspire.

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

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