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Vancouver History: Philanthropists

January 3rd, 2012 @ 10:25am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

On New Year’s Eve Vancouver lost Milton Wong, a wonderful business man, Order of Canada recipient, SFU Chancellor, and philanthropist.

“Milt was a very generous and wonderful guy,” said longtime friend Michael Clague, who recalled the time in 2003 when, as director of the Carnegie Centre in the Downtown Eastside, he asked his university buddy for help in raising $50,000 for the arts to celebrate the centre’s 100th anniversary.

“We were having our lunch at the Ovaltine and he just said, ‘I’ll give you $50,000,'” said Clague. “He said ‘I believe in making a social investment.'”

The contribution planted the seed for what would eventually be the Downtown Eastside’s Heart of the City Festival, now in its eighth year…

…Among Wong’s other legacies are the Aboriginal Mother Centre Society, which provides a home for at-risk mothers and children, a $3-million contribution to Simon Fraser University’s School of Contemporary Arts, and a local area planning program for the Downtown Eastside. – Vancouver Sun.

Over the years, Vancouver has been built up by great leaders, visionaries, artists, business men and women — all leaving lasting legacies in our community.

The Robert Lee YMCA - Vancouver, BC
Photo credit: Concert Properties on Flickr

Robert Lee YMCA
The reconstructed Robert Lee YMCA on Burrard sits at the organization’s original location, where it has been for the last 70 years. Lee himself was a member for 45 years. The Robert H. Lee Graduate School is the graduate school of Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia as well.

His stature in the business community includes appointments as trustee of the Bank of British Columbia, a directorship of the Real Estate Institute of Canada and of the Port Authority of Vancouver.

Mr. Lee’s business acumen and knowledge have enabled him to play a key role with a number of community institutions. He has been involved with successful fundraising campaigns for Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, the B.C. Children’s Hospital and U.B.C. He has also served as a Director of the B.C. Paraplegic Foundation. – Order of BC Citation

IASSIST plenary at Wosk Centre for Dialogue at SFU
Inside the SFU Centre for Dialog – Photo credit: clooty dumpling on Flickr

Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialog at SFU
Retailer, developer, and hotel owner Morris Wosk received the Order of Canada in 1993, and the Order of British Columbia in 1994:

Morris Wosk has become known internationally as a philanthropist, community leader and founder of many civic programs, not only in BC and Canada but in the US and Israel. During more than six decades as an owner of retail furniture stores, hotels, and as a developer in Vancouver, he has given generously of his time, energy and financial support to a wide cross-section of his community. His support has encompassed education, youth health care, culture and science. His dedication to British Columbians is illustrated by the fact that he has never invested or developed outside of the province. In 1980 he was the third Canadian ever to be honoured with the Prime Minister’s Medal of State of Israel, and in 1985 he received the Human Relations Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. – VancouverHistory.ca – Order of BC Citation.

You wouldn't know it
Inide the Carnegie Centre. Photo credit: kennymatic on Flickr

Carnegie Library
In 1901, the City of Vancouver requested $50,000 from US steel magnante Andrew Carnegie to build a library. Carnegie agreed but stated his conditions were that the City furnish the site and spend $5,000 on the library each year. According to the City, a fight inititally broke out between the East and West sides as to who would get this new cultural insitution. The Carnegie Library was opened at Main and Hastings in 1903.

Carnegie earned the major part of his wealth in steel industry. He built the Carnegie Steel Company which in 1890s was the largest and most profitable industrial enterprise in the world. Later, he sold it to J.P. Morgan who created U.S. Steel.

… Carnegie spent his last years doing extensive philanthropy works. Following his benevolent works, Carnegie established a number of libraries throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, and other English-speaking countries. In total, he had funded around 3000 libraries in different countries. – Source

Today, the building is the Carnegie Community Centre, offering a variety of services to the community in a safe and welcoming environment.

Along Kitts and Hadden Park
Kits Point & Hadden Park. Photo credit: dennissylvesterhurd on Flickr

Hadden Park
Harvey Hadden was a wealthy Englishman who visited Vancouver in 1891 and began to buy up land (reportedly spending over $1 million on real estate). According to Chuck Davis’ History of Metropolitan Vancouver, Hadden once owned the Birks site (North East corner of Hastings and Granville), 160 acres in Capilano Canyon, Hadden Hall (Capilano Golf and Country Club sits there now), and more.

In his will, he bequeathed $500,000 to Vancouver parks. In 1957, parks at Georgia, Adanac, Woodland and McLean were purchased with his bequest. Hadden Park at Kitsilano Beach, popular today as an “off-leash” park for dog owners, is on land purchased by Hadden from the CPR (in either 1928 or 1929) and donated to the city. – VancouverHistory.ca

Although this is but a sampling of individuals who have had a lasting impact — born in Vancouver or not — they are a part of a unique group who gives back to the general population because they can, and because they care.

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3 comments

  1. Marc says:

    fantastic read. it’s inspiring and a model that we should all be more involved in creating community. Thanks for sharing Rebecca

  2. Shauna says:

    Thank you for reminding us that visionary (and successful) individuals can and do make lasting contributions to their communities! Volunteers are wonderful (I am one : ), and committees are a necessary evil, but as Lester J. Pourciau said, “There is no monument dedicated to the memory of a committee.”

  3. walter p komarnicki says:

    thank God there are such altruistic people like Mr Wong still left on this planet who believe in ‘making a social investment.’ !

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