Statement: The Late Murray Bernard Koffler, O.C., O.Ont.
Honourable senators, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to pay tribute to the life of Murray Koffler, one of Toronto’s best-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists, who died on November 5, 2017, at the age of 93.
Murray was the child of Leon and Ernestina Koffler, Jewish immigrants from Romania who began a small drugstore chain known as Koffler’s Drugs in the early 20th century.
Following the untimely death of his father, Leon, Murray, at the age of 17, was tasked with operating the family business while completing his studies at the Ontario College of Pharmacy.
Eventually, that small family business grew into the mega corporation known today as Shoppers Drug Mart. As CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart, Murray Koffler transformed the retail drugstore industry in Canada, championing a customer-first mentality that led to the self-service approach to drugstores that we are all familiar with today.
In 1968, Murray oversaw the merger of Shoppers Drug Mart with Plaza Drugs, expanding his drugstore chain to 50 stores. Today, there are over 1,200 Shoppers Drug Mart retail stores, located in almost every city and town from coast to coast to coast.
Murray Koffler’s business success was not limited to drugstores. As a founding director of the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, Murray was also involved in the development of yet another iconic Canadian business success story.
However, Murray Koffler was not only a gifted businessman; he was a man with a highly evolved sense of community responsibility, and he distinguished himself as one of Toronto’s leading philanthropists. Murray Koffler recognized the important leadership role that the drug industry needed to fulfill in the education of young people about the dangers of drug abuse. It was due to this responsible approach that he co-founded Canada’s Council on Drug Abuse.
Murray Koffler’s other significant philanthropic contributions included the creation of the Koffler Centre of the Arts in Toronto, the Koffler Student Services Centre and Koffler Scientific Reserve at the University of Toronto, the Murray Koffler Urologic Wellness Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the Koffler Accelerator in Israel. He was a co-founder of Temple Emanu-El synagogue in Toronto and provided significant support for the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, the Toronto Symphony and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. In 1996, Murray Koffler was recognized for his extraordinary contributions to Canada by being named an officer of the Order of Canada.
I ask all honourable senators to join with me in remembering Murray Koffler, his remarkable life, his outstanding achievements and his enormous contributions to Canada as we send our sympathies to his wife, Marvelle, and their five children and 18 grandchildren. Murray’s legacy will live on for many generations to come. May his memory be a blessing.