On December 4, 2018, Canada lost a noted
visionary and philanthropist, Ralph Halbert. Born in Toronto in 1930, Ralph
graduated from NTCI in 1948 having been both a strong student and athlete. He
went on to attend the University of Toronto, graduating in 1954 with a degree
in dentistry, and continued his studies at the University of Chicago in
Illinois, specializing in orthodontics. He practiced in Toronto for about ten
years but gradually reduced his practice to focus on real estate developments. He
and his partners established Glen Corporation, which developed residential
communities, business parks and commercial developments throughout the GTA,
including Bayview Hill in Richmond Hill and, in conjunction with Cadillac
Fairview, the Promenade shopping centre in Vaughan.
With the success
of his business dealings, Dr. Halbert began to giveback, as he made sizable
contributions to educational and innovation programs in Canada and Israel.
Deeply committed to the value of higher education, he believed in the importance
of innovation and how that could be achieved
through collaboration between universities across national boundaries.
According to Janice Stein, founding director of the Munk School of Global
Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, “It has taken the world
25 years to catch up with Ralph Halbert’s vision… His great achievement was to
bring together networks of scholars.”
Ralph was a board member of Fulbright
Canada, an educational exchange between Canada and the U.S. but was best known
for his work fostering connections between Canada and Israel. In 1977, as the President of the Canadian Friends of
the Hebrew University, Ralph and his wife Rosyln established the Programme of
Canadian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Renamed The Halbert
Centre for Canadian Studies in 1995, the centre “fosters
research and promotes the understanding and knowledge of Canadian civilization
in all its aspects among Israeli academics and the public at large.” (Dr.
Halbert discussed his work with the Centre for Canadian Studies in an interview
posted on YouTube, http://www.cfhu.org/video/the-halbert-centre-for-canadian-studies-at-the-hebrew-university-of-jerusalem-building-bridges).
At the University of Toronto’s Munk School, Dr. Halbert
sponsored the Halbert Exchange Program, promoting collaborative research
between the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
through the Halbert Network Fellowship for young faculty, the Halbert
Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Exchange Program for graduate students. He and
his wife also supported scholars through the Roz and Ralph Halbert Professorship
of Innovation at the Munk School’s Innovation Policy Lab.
In 2012, Ralph Halbert demonstrated his support of Jewish
Studies by establishing the Ralph & Roslyn Halbert Fund for the Centre for
Jewish Studies to support the exchange of ideas in the areas of classical
Judaism, Jewish thought and philosophy, Jewish history and modern Jewish
culture. However, his philanthropy was not confined to areas of scholarship as he was a co-founder of Ramat Hasharon Israel Tennis Centre in Israel
that encouraged both Israeli and Arab children to learn respect for one another
through playing tennis.
Canada, Dr. Halbert was one of the early backers of the Canadian Open tennis
tournament (now known as the Rogers Cup) at York University. He and his wife
were also supportive of filmmaking and were early financial supporters of the
Festival of Festivals (now known as the Toronto International Film Festival). Also
interested in the visual arts, the Halberts were both benefactors of the Art
Gallery of Ontario as well as the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.
Ralph lived a rich and full life for 88 years and leaves behind an
everlasting legacy as an exemplary family man and philanthropist who truly made
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