Leaving a legacy: ‘You only die when you are forgotten’; Canadian billionaire Seymour Schulich has given away $350-million in his lifetime, partly, he acknowledges, to keep his memory alive

Leaving a legacy: ‘You only die when you are forgotten’

Garry Marr | 25/10/13 | Last Updated: 26/10/13 3:24 PM ET

 How We Die Now: “Death renders all equal,” wrote Claudian. How each one of us relates to death, however, is individual, and always changing — as we mature; as we contemplate life, and death, around us; and as society changes. In this special series in the National Post, we present stories and columns looking at the different ways we see, and prepare for, the Great Equalizer. To read the complete series, click here.

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Seymour Schulich: I have two major objectives now. Number one is to be counted among the greatest Canadian philanthropists of my era and two to encourage other wealthy folks to step up He may have given away more money than anybody else in Canada, so Seymour Schulich probably has some insight into what drives the desire to have your name live on. “There are people out there who think their legacy is their company. Your company is not your legacy. Companies have a mortality rate,” says Mr. Schulich, 73, a billionaire who made his money in the gold sector. “Business is a means to an end. I don’t need to get any richer, thank you. I have two major objectives now. Number one is to be counted among the greatest Canadian philanthropists of my era and two to encourage other wealthy folks to step up.”South of the border, they give almost two and half times what Canadians give to charity on per capita basis, says Mr. Schulich, who has probably given away $350-million in his lifetime.

He says people don’t forget it when you make a donation in a very public way. “You get a Rhodes Scholarship and you go and figure out who Rhodes was and why he did it,” he says. “You know you only die when you are forgotten. I’m the last in my line and I guess I don’t want to be forgotten, so that’s a motivator.”

Mr. Schulich has taken giving a step further and now makes donations in other people’s names who don’t have the financial means to do it on their own. “I don’t want to mention anybody because they might be embarrassed. But it’s important to recognize people,” he says.

For those who don’t have financial means, he says he has a quote from the book he wrote that notes you can give “time, talent or treasure” with the last sometimes being the easiest.

There are many other opportunities to give, says Ruth MacKenzie, executive director of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, which is now running a campaign called Leave a Legacy to encourage donations.

“People can donate whatever they want. You can leave a gift in your will to whoever you want,” said Ms. MacKenzie. “Charities are very appreciative of any donation they receive.”

Is being recognized for those donations part of the deal?  “I think some people do,” she says, about wanting some public recognition. “It’s not for everybody. Some people want to do it very quietly. Some people want recognition to show that there is opportunity for other people to leave a gift in their will. It’s a personal decision.”

At the corporate level, she says that recognition has clearly become more important over the years. Hospitals have taken advantage of the trend towards people wanting their donations recognized and university departments — like the ones that have Mr. Schulich’s name in their letterhead — have become commonplace.

I think people are successful and want to give back

But on an individual basis, you’ll see places like museums give their major donors plaques that are displayed prominently. Some religious institutions too have long recognized the contributions of individuals to their institutions.

Even municipalities have gotten into the game. It’s becoming common to see something as simple as a park or even a commemorative bench named after an individual. In Toronto a bench is $2,200, a tree $642.

“It’s very popular and it’s growing,” says Rob Richardson, manager of partnership development with the city of Toronto’s forestry and recreation division. “We might get a tree or bench in memory of a loved one, sometimes it’s for a birthday or anniversary.”

What drives it all? “I think people are successful and want to give back. They realize the importance of parks and programs and see contributing to park enhancement as a great way to give back,” says Mr. Richardson.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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