Joe Segal accepting the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Rix Award for engaged community citizenship in an April 7 online celebration. (screenshot)
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade paid tribute to Joe Segal on April 7, honouring him with its Rix Award for engaged community citizenship, in recognition of his many philanthropic endeavours and decades of community service.
The postponed 2020 Governors’ Banquet & Rix Awards was reimagined for the virtual gathering, which was dubbed the Governors’ Gala and Rix Awards. The event also saw the board’s Rix Award for engaged corporate citizenship bestowed on CN, and its immediate past chair, Lori Mathison – who currently serves as president and chief executive officer of Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia – inducted into its council of governors, along with Kari Yuers, president and CEO of Kryton International Inc. Gala co-chairs were Lorne Segal and Brent Cameron.
Born in Vegreville, Alta., in 1925, Joe Segal’s early years included losing his father at aged 14, stretches of financial hardship and hard labour building the Alaska Highway. He fought in the infantry in the Second World War, where, along with his compatriots, the Calgary Highlanders, he participated directly in the liberation of the Netherlands.
Following the war, he arrived in Vancouver with $1,500 in his pocket and set to work on more entrepreneurial pursuits. While he started small in war surplus goods, his hard work and tenacity led him to found the Fields department stores and, ultimately, take over Zellers before launching Kingswood Capital Corp., a conglomerate with interests in real estate, manufacturing and financing.
Despite his success, Segal has remained firmly grounded in the community where he built his businesses and raised his family. It is a tribute to his character that his impact and life in the city are perhaps most marked by his generosity – both with his time, as a mentor, and philanthropic endeavours.
A recipient of both an Order of Canada and an Order of British Columbia, Segal’s more recent years have been defined mainly by his philanthropy.
He served on the board and as chancellor of Simon Fraser University for six years. And, in perhaps one of his most visible contributions in Vancouver, Segal donated the historic Bank of Montreal building at 750 Hastings St. to SFU, creating a home for the Segal Graduate School of Business.
In 2010, he and his wife Rosalie donated $12 million to the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundations to create the Joseph and Rosalie Segal and Family Centre, a 100-private-room acute care centre serving the mental health needs of people in crisis. The substantial gift, made prior to mental health concerns being mainstream, is just another demonstration of his strong connection to the needs of the community. There are countless other organizations who are recipients of the Segals’ work and philanthropy.
Together with his partner Rosalie, the Segals have passed along the philanthropic genes to their children Sandra, Tracey, Gary and Lorne. The Segal family has supported mental health charities for more than 20 years. Their awareness was sparked after they were invited to attend the Coast Mental Health’s Courage to Come Back Awards, which honours individuals who have overcome major life challenges. The event has been chaired by their son, Lorne, for the past 15 years.
In a complex world, Joe Segal’s life offers a clear example for leaders today and the leaders of tomorrow. Simply put, a life well-lived will be most marked by the ways in which we give back to our community and contribute collectively towards a brighter future.
The Rix Awards are an initiative of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, presented in honour of the late Dr. Don Rix, who served as chair of the organization in 2008-09. Award recipients are chosen each year by a special selection committee of the board of directors, based on a number of criteria.
Watch this year’s event at boardoftrade.com/events/individual-events/1656-6471.