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Honorary degree citation - Elizabeth Comper*

By: Sandra Betton, November 2009

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Mr. Tony Comper, Immediate Past President and Chief Executive Officer of BMO Financial Group and Mrs. Elizabeth Comper, teacher and philanthropist.

There aren't many people in the world with as much drive, dedication, and passion as Tony and Elizabeth Comper. But we're not talking about two ordinary people. In addition to their own careers – Mrs. Comper as a teacher and Mr. Comper at BMO – they have spent their lives investing their time and energy in the arts, community organizations and causes in which they firmly believe.

Elizabeth Comper started her career as an elementary school teacher and never lost touch with her desire to change lives. While working full-time as a teacher, she completed her bachelor of arts with distinction at Concordia. She then went on to McGill to pursue her master's in library science.

Tony Comper obtained his bachelor's degree at the University of Toronto and started working at BMO in 1967. Four years later, he moved to the Operations and Systems Group and became a key player in the development of the bank's nation-wide, real-time computer system, an industry-leading innovation at the time. He was appointed president in 1990 and CEO in 1999. He is currently Immediate Past President and Chief Executive Officer of BMO Financial Group.

Redonner à la collectivité est une seconde nature chez Mme Comper, qui a siégé pendant 10 ans au conseil d’administration du Tarragon Theatre. Aujourd’hui membre du conseil du Musée des beaux-arts de l’Ontario, elle est aussi administratrice de la Fondation du Conseil des arts de l’Ontario, du Royal Conservatory of Music et du Conseil canadien des chrétiens et des juifs.

De plus, Mme Comper est lauréate du prix Arbor de l’Université de Toronto et du prix des relations humaines du Conseil canadien des chrétiens et des juifs.

In addition to his remarkable success over the course of nearly four decades with the BMO, Mr. Comper has contributed countless hours to local organizations. He serves on numerous councils, including the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, Canadian Centre for Architecture and the Advisory Board of the Conference Board of Canada/Spencer Stuart Corporate Governance Awards.

Mr. Comper was honoured with the Human Relations Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews in 1998 and the Award of Merit from B’nai Brith Canada in 2003.

Together, the Compers received the Scopus Award from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the university's highest honor, joining the company of former U.S. President, Gerald Ford, Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Steven Spielberg, Barbara Walters and Elie Wiesel.

When you take two remarkable individuals and combine their efforts, the results are astonishing. Mr. and Mrs. Comper founded Canada's largest theatre arts award, the Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize, which alternates among directors, playwrights and designers. They also created FAST (Fighting Anti-Semitism Together), a coalition of non-Jewish Canadian leaders to take a stand on anti-semitism. If that's not enough to keep them busy, the couple also initiated the Tony and Elizabeth Comper Fund for New Works at the Necessary Angel Theatre Company in Toronto. Mr. & Mrs. Comper are currently co-chairing the campaign for the Royal Conservatory of Music.

We have so much to learn from the Compers about selflessness, community engagement and hard work.

"Find your cause and your passion," Mrs. Comper was quoted as saying in the Toronto Star. "Then follow it. You never know who you can reach. Every one of us can affect eternity," she said.

For their years of dedication, patience, and service, we are truly fortunate to be able to honour Mr. and Mrs. Comper today.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege to present to you Tony and Elizabeth Comper so that you may confer upon them the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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