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Joseph Rotman, leading business and U of T champion, passes away at age 80

January 27, 2015

TORONTO, ON — Joseph Rot­man once said, “Sci­ence empow­ers us; the human­i­ties teach us to use that pow­er wise­ly.”

Mr. Rot­man, who was one of Canada’s lead­ing inno­va­tors and phil­an­thropists, died in Toron­to on Jan­u­ary 27th, just weeks after his 80th birth­day. He leaves a great lega­cy in a wide array of fields, includ­ing busi­ness, health care, the arts and high­er edu­ca­tion.

“The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, and indeed all of Cana­da, has lost one of its great­est cham­pi­ons,” said Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Pres­i­dent Mer­ic Gertler. “Joseph Rot­man believed that each of us has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to help build civ­il soci­ety. He had great faith in young Cana­di­ans, in their eager­ness and abil­i­ty to lead the way in that cause. And he was supreme­ly con­fi­dent in Canada’s abil­i­ty to com­pete and to con­tribute on the glob­al stage.”

Mr. Rot­man obtained his mas­ter of com­merce from U of T in 1960 after receiv­ing his B.A. in phi­los­o­phy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of West­ern Ontario in 1957. He spent anoth­er two years study­ing busi­ness and eco­nom­ics at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and start­ed his busi­ness career in 1962.

Tiff Mack­lem, dean of the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, said Mr. Rot­man “was a vision­ary who inspired con­fi­dence in a gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans to see them­selves not just as busi­ness peo­ple and entre­pre­neurs, but as glob­al lead­ers. He want­ed Cana­da to be an inter­na­tion­al play­er, and he want­ed the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment to lead the way. And I believe he suc­ceed­ed.”

Mr. Rot­man and his fam­i­ly had deep roots with­in the Uni­ver­si­ty com­mu­ni­ty, and a long his­to­ry of vol­un­teerism and involve­ment with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

In 1993 he and his wife San­dra made a gift of $3 mil­lion through the Rot­man Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion towards the con­struc­tion of a new state-of-the-art facil­i­ty at the U of T’s busi­ness school. Since that time, the Rot­mans have giv­en a total of more than $42 mil­lion to the insti­tu­tion. The Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, which is named in his hon­our, has become one of the most inno­v­a­tive busi­ness schools in the world.

Roger Mar­tin, for­mer dean of Rot­man, said Mr. Rot­man “had clear objec­tives for the school. He believed we need­ed to take a holis­tic view of busi­ness edu­ca­tion. We call it inte­gra­tive think­ing. His enlight­ened per­spec­tive helped vault our school for­ward, in a world where you need to be at the top of your game when com­pet­ing in a glob­al­ized econ­o­my.”

Mr. Rot­man received many awards for his vol­un­teerism, includ­ing a Life­time Achieve­ment Award from Life Sci­ences Ontario in 2012. He advo­cat­ed for life sci­ences research excel­lence and the biotech indus­try, serv­ing in sev­er­al lead­er­ship roles at lead­ing health care insti­tu­tions. Mr. Rot­man was also pas­sion­ate about the arts, serv­ing as the chair of the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts. In recog­ni­tion of his com­mit­ment to high­er edu­ca­tion, Mr. Rot­man received hon­orary degrees from U of T (1994) and West­ern (2009). Most recent­ly, he was an hon­orary chair of U of T’s Bound­less cam­paign and was appoint­ed chan­cel­lor of West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty in July 2012.

David Palmer, vice-pres­i­dent advance­ment of U of T, said, “Joe Rot­man was a vision­ary and pas­sion­ate cham­pi­on of high­er edu­ca­tion and research. He served this coun­try and his alma mater admirably – his lead­er­ship inspired inno­v­a­tive solu­tions and pos­i­tive change on some of the most press­ing social chal­lenges of our time.”


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