media release

McDonald’s founder to be honoured by SFU

June 09, 2011

Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210/9017;

George Cohon
Photo on Flickr

George Cohon, who gave Canada the golden arches, Big Macs and a home away from home for families of kids with life-threatening illnesses, will receive an honorary degree from Simon Fraser University next week.

The founder of McDonald’s Restaurants in Canada and in Russia, Cohon will be the first of six distinguished individuals to be recognized during spring Convocation ceremonies on the Burnaby campus June 14-17.

Cohon’s honorary degree will be conferred during the ceremony on June 14 at 2:30 p.m.

Cohon founded McDonald’s Restaurants (Canada) in 1971 and was president, chairman and CEO of the food service company's Canadian operations until 1992.

He established Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, which supports Canadian families with sick children through Ronald McDonald Houses and its programs, including Ronald McDonald Family Rooms.

He also pioneered McHappy Day, McDonald’s Canada’s signature fundraising event, which has raised more than $35 million to date.

In 1988, after more than a decade of negotiations, Cohon announced an agreement to open 20 McDonald's restaurants in Moscow. The first opened with 27 cash registers and seating for 700 people. Located in Pushkin Square, the restaurant is still the largest McDonald's in the world.

Known for his determination and business acumen - and it's true, his business card will get you a free Big Mac in either country - Cohon compiled his experiences in a 1997 autobiography, To Russia with Fries, which included a foreword by former Russian President Mikail Gorbachev.

The U.S.-born businessman became a Canadian citizen in 1975 and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1992.

SFU will confer honorary degrees on five others, including songstress Sarah McLachlan, Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, sportscaster Brian Williams, former Vancouver city planner Ray Spaxman and molecular biologist Pavel Pevzner.


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