Entrepreneur and philanthropist Avie Bennett is the founder of First Plazas Inc., his personal, commercial real estate company. He is credited with pioneering the retail plaza concept in Canada, opening the nation’s first strip malls in Toronto in the early 1950s.
Bennett is the former chair of the venerable Canadian publishing house, McClelland & Stewart Ltd.; he donated 75% of the company to the University of Toronto in 2000. That same year, he also donated The Canadian Encyclopedia (electronic version) to the Historica Foundation of Canada, and co-chaired the Canadian Democracy and Corporate Accountability Commission.
In addition to his business interests, Bennett is a driving force in the community, education, and the arts. He is a past chair of the Historica-Dominion Institute and a former president of the International Readings at Harbourfront. He has served York University as Chancellor; the National Ballet of Canada, including its foundation and ballet school; the Governing Council of the University of Toronto; the Schulich Board of Business; the United Way of Greater Toronto; and the Luminato arts festival.
For his distinguished contributions, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada as well as a Member of the Order of Ontario, and was awarded the Canada 125 Medal in 1992. He holds three honorary doctorates.