It was with much sadness that we learned of the death of Joseph Rotman, an outstanding businessman, philosopher and philanthropist who was an inspiration and advisor in the formative years of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
“He was a gentleman, a thoughtful, respectful leader who always committed as much in expert advice as he did in l financial support,” said James Price, President & CEO of the Foundation. “He always saw the long term, looked at the big picture. The guidance and counsel he provided, especially in our early formative days, made a lasting imprint on the Foundation.”
At the time of his death on Tuesday at age 80, Mr. Rotman was Chancellor at Western University, where the Rotman Institute of Philosophy is named after him, as is the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He was also chair of the Canada Council for the Arts and served on the boards of many major Canadian corporations.
Mr. Rotman said his philosophy studies at Western, undertaken after his application to the U of T’s commerce program was turned down, changed his life forever. “I can honestly say I would not have had the success I have had without that philosophy training,” he is quoted as saying in Western University’s tribute.
At age 60, after a successful career as an oil trader, merchant banker and investor, Mr. Rotman turned his attention to public service, although, as the Globe and Mail reported, he “made large donations throughout his lifetime to support education, innovation and research, and the arts community.”
“My father taught me that the most powerful way to inspire others to give is for them to see people giving in their community,” he told Western. “He taught his children, and lived his life, on the belief that writing the cheque was the easy part. It is the giving of one’s time and ability that is more difficult.”
A tremendous supporter of — and advocate for — Canadian health research, Mr. Rotman served on the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Stem Cell Network’s board of directors and helped get Aggregate Therapeutics up and running. He chaired the board the Ontario Brain Institute and helped fund the Rotman Research Institute at the University of Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences centre. He was a director of Toronto’s Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District.
“He was always willing to offer his help, his support and his advice,” said Mr. Price. “We have lost a great man and a true friend of the Foundation.”