This article was originally published in the Globe and Mail on December 31, 2010. It is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. The paper has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.
Nation Builder 2010 Finalist
In 2010 Peter Munk cemented his reputation as one of Canada’s foremost philanthropists with a $35-million donation to the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, enabling a dramatic expansion of the Munk Centre for International Studies that he helped start up a decade ago.
The donation – the largest single gift the U of T has received from an individual – underlines the two prongs of Mr. Munk’s philanthropic vision: Stay focused and support Canada’s role on the world stage.
Mr. Munk, a refugee who built multinational mining giant Barrick Gold Corp. and is still its chairman at the age of 83, believes Canada is one of the world’s great countries, yet it is unappreciated by many who were born here.
“We are a country of peace, law, justice, freedom and free education. We have the largest multiracial society in the world,” he said. “Canada is as good as it gets.”
Mr. Munk has decided to give away most of his fortune rather than leave it to his children. “It is your obligation to give back as much as you have taken from a country,” he said in an interview from his winter home in Switzerland. “I consider myself considerably lucky. … I’ve made some money and I wish to give it back.”
Through a foundation he runs with his wife, Melanie, Mr. Munk has concentrated his giving on education and health care.
U of T was chosen as the focus for the education funding, he said, because it is his alma mater and welcomed him with open arms when he came to Canada in the late 1940s. “My first soccer game, my first university dance, my first social events – coming from war-torn Europe – all took place at the U of T,” he said.
The other stream of his gift-giving is health care, primarily through large donations to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital (now part of the University Health Network). “I realized that heart [disease], which is endemic in my family, also happens to be the number one killer in Canada,” he said.
Those who have seen their projects come to fruition, thanks to Mr. Munk, characterize him as a crucial nation builder.
“With Peter, it’s about the vision, the objective you want to achieve,” said Janice Stein, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs. “That’s what engages him.”
When she first met Mr. Munk more than a decade ago as her institution was just taking shape, “his vision and commitment was to educate young Canadians to become global citizens,” Prof. Stein said. For all the years he supported the centre, including his latest financial contribution, “that has been the insistent theme that Peter has raised again and again,” she said.
It is clear that his European roots and his international business viewpoint drew him to the school, she said, because he understands how important it is for young people who want to succeed to look beyond North America’s boundaries.
Still, he does not interfere with the day-to-day running of the centre, Prof. Stein said, limiting his involvement to fashioning its vision and objectives, not execution. “This is a person who is used to focusing on results and accomplishments,” she said.
Dr. Robert Bell, president of the University Health Network, said the level of Mr. Munk’s financial support is astonishing, yet he doesn’t hog the spotlight. He insists that the focus of attention should be the people who work at the cardiac centre, Dr. Bell said. “He really gets it … that it is crucial that you to bring folks together and recognize them and give them the sense that they are doing something that is great.”
For the rest of the article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/nation-builder/peter-munk-ive-made-some-money-and-i-wish-to-give-it-back/article1852735/page1/