SFU mourns the loss of university builder Samuel Belzberg
The Simon Fraser community is mourning the loss of a long-time benefactor and university builder who led the fundraising effort to establish SFU’s downtown campus.
Samuel Belzberg, 89, died Friday in Vancouver, following a massive stroke.
“Sam was a larger-than-life figure. He was one of the builders of SFU,” said SFU President Andrew Petter.
“He had a huge heart and a huge belief in education and the power of education.”
Belzberg, an Officer of the Order of Canada and Member of the Order of British Columbia, served as SFU’s first fundraising campaign chair, helping raise almost $60 million to create SFU’s Vancouver campus at Harbour Centre.
In 2016, Belzberg and his wife Frances were honoured with SFU’s President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award for their many years of philanthropy and commitment to education, leadership and equality.
In addition to supporting major initiatives like the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, the couple also funded the Samuel and Frances Belzberg Library at SFU’s downtown campus in 1989.
A financier and real estate developer, Samuel Belzberg founded the First City Financial Corporation, the Gibralt Capital Corporation and Second City Real Estate.
The couple’s philanthropy began more than four decades ago with the co-founding of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. In the late 70s, Samuel Belzberg served as the founding chair of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, an organization committed to confronting bigotry and racism around the world. In 1993, the Belzbergs helped found the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.
In the early 2000s, in partnership with the Canadian government, the Belzbergs founded Action Canada, an organization that provides fellowships to develop the next generation of Canadian leaders.
Belzberg held honorary degrees from SFU and Yeshiva University and was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.