Saying Goodbye to a great leader
GLOBE-Net, January 13, 2012 – A public memorial service for philanthropist Milton Wong will be held next week, according to his family. Milton, who died from pancreatic cancer in the closing hours of 2011, was a tireless champion of social justice, and a business leader who personified the very best in corporate responsibility.
The son of an immigrant tailor in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Milton overcame racial prejudices that limited opportunities for so many others to become one of Vancouver’s most honoured financiers, philanthropists and community leaders, left a legacy that is written not only on the physical character of the city he loved, but also in the moral a spiritual character of a new generation of business leaders that he helped to educate.
His personal influence and financial support helped to shape SFU Woodward’s, Science World, the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre in SFU’s new School for the Contemporary Arts, the B.C. Cancer Foundation, the Vancouver YWCA, and the Salvation Army.
As a two-time Chancellor of Simon Fraser University and founder and later chair of the Laurier Institution, a national non-profit think-tank that promotes discussion of cultural diversity, Milton demonstrated in word and deed all that is good about socially responsible business.
Never afraid to take on the impossible, he turned personal adversity into a challenge, social injustice into a cause, and economic disadvantage into pathway for change.
He was among the very first business leaders in British Columbia to call for the recognition of Aboriginal Rights, not only to turn the page on generations of injustice, but also as a way to open the door to economic and social opportunity for First Nations youth.
He helped to create Vancouver’s famed Dragon Boat Festival as a way to bridge the cultural divides that we so much a part of the society into which he was born, but which he helped change forever.
He was deeply concerned about preserving the environment and about ensuring that business success did not come at the expense of our natural endowments.
He was a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. He was co-chair of the BC Cancer Foundation Millennium Campaign and an advisory board member with the Salvation Army. He served as a director on the boards of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program, the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund Society, Genome BC and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
He was the recipient of the “Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year” award, chairman and CEO of the 4th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
He managed billions of dollars as founder and chairman of M.K. Wong and Associates, which he sold to HSBC Bank Canada, where he also served as non-executive chairman.
But he never forgot his roots, and returned to Chinatown to convert the building where his father and brothers laboured for years into a home for the elderly.
To those of us who knew him well and who shared his passion for change, his passing is a great loss. But in the example he set as an extraordinary human being, he enriched us
all, and made us the better for having known him.
John D. Wiebe
President and CEO