Visionary philanthropist Ellen Remai was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at USask Spring Convocation on June 7.
Visionary philanthropist Ellen Remai was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at USask Spring Convocation on June 7. (Photo: Dave Stobbe)

Passion for art and community at the heart of USask honourary degree recipient’s success

In recognition of the extraordinary support and dedication to building thriving, vibrant communities shown throughout her storied career, Ellen Remai was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at University of Saskatchewan (USask) Spring Convocation on June 7.

“With success comes a personal responsibility to give back,” Ellen Remai said as she made her acceptance speech at USask’s Spring Convocation ceremonies at Merlis Belsher Place on June 7. 

Giving back to their community has been at the heart of what Remai and her late husband, Frank Remai, have aimed to do with their extraordinary support and dedication to community building and arts programming for the last several decades. 

Sixty years ago, Ellen and Frank founded Remai Ventures Inc., an influential and successful development and real estate company responsible for creating landmark buildings across Western Canada. Together, they also created the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation in 1992, which has carried out a wide variety of philanthropic efforts, with particular focus on supporting performing and visual arts, and contributing to education, women’s issues, and social and community initiatives. 

It was through this foundation that Remai was responsible for one of the largest donations to the arts in Canadian history, having now pledged more than $100 million to the stunning Remai Modern art gallery in Saskatoon. 

Through the foundation, Remai has also been a long-time donor and supporter of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, the Persephone Theatre and the Remai Arts Centre, the Station Arts Centre, and the Saskatoon Opera Association. 

"The foundation has played a major role in my life,” said Remai in her acceptance speech. “It has given me the freedom to be the person that I want to be. It has shown me the joy of giving for the greater good.” 

“She has been – and is – an inspiring community builder and visionary philanthropist,” said USask Chancellor Grit McCreath, in her introduction to Remai at USask Spring Convocation. “She has often been quoted as saying ‘A great city deserves great art.’ Her commitment to Remai Modern is evidence of her passion for the arts and lifelong dedication and commitment to creating a thriving society.” 

Remai has been recognized for her philanthropic projects, her success in business, and her commitment to building community, by being honoured with a long list of awards, and her dedication and love for Remai Ventures Inc. continues. 

“To this day, I continue to work and I love it,” Remai said during her convocation address. “While we certainly have had our shares of failures and achievements, I hope the measure of our success will not be in the strength of our business, but in how we used our success for the good of our community.”  

Click here to learn more about the honorary degree recipients who were celebrated at the 2023 USask Spring Convocation ceremonies. 

Together we will create inspired places for people to address the challenges of the future. We invite you to join by supporting visionary spaces at USask.

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