TORONTO — Leslie Dan is still not crazy about public kudos, even though the honours keep coming.
Anna and Leslie Dan
The humble Hungarian-born philanthropist and business mogul is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. In 2006, the University of Toronto completed the Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building. He’s received honorary doctorates from Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto.
The most recent accolade came on Oct. 15, when Dan received another honorary doctorate, this one from York University.
In Jerusalem, the new $20 million Aish HaTorah World Center, which takes up some 40 per cent of the land adjacent the Western Wall and Temple Mount, bears the name, “The Dan Family of Canada Building.”
His name also adorns the sign outside Leo Baeck Day School in Thornhill.
The latest garland comes from the Canadian Centre for Diversity (formerly the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews), which will present Dan and his wife, Anna, with its 2010 Human Relations Award at its 63rd annual gala Nov. 3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Co-honorees will be Earle O’Born, president and CEO of the Printing House Ltd., and his wife Janice, who heads the company’s charitable arm.
“I prefer not to be honoured,” the taciturn Dan told The CJN. “But they were insistent.”
Apart from the millions he gives to Jewish causes and to programs that ship medicine overseas, Dan is best known as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry. As the founder of Novopharm (now Teva Canada), he built one of the country’s largest manufacturers of generic drugs.
By the time he sold Novopharm in 2000 to Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals, annual sales were $750 million and it employed 3,000 people in Canada, the United States and Hungary. Among potential buyers, Dan settled on Teva because it was “a very competent, stable organization. It was a good strategic fit for both partners.”
Dan also founded the Canadian Medicine Aid Programme (CAN-MAP) in 1985, which to date has shipped some $50 million worth of life-saving medicines and other aid to the Third World.
Dan now owns and operates a biotech company called Viventia, which owes its origins to research conducted by his son, Dr. Michael Dan, a neurosurgeon who also has a PhD in science. The company’s focus is solely on developing better medicines for cancer, particularly in the bladder, head and neck. To date, some $220 million has been invested in the company’s quest.
Dan was married to his first wife, Judith, for 37 years. They had three children, Michael Dan; Aubrey Dan, a businessman and arts impresario; and Andrea Dan-Hytman. In 1996, he married Anna Mirkina, a patron of the arts whose involvement extends to the Toronto Symphony and the Canadian Opera Company.
Dan operates on clearly defined principles both in business and his approach to charitable giving.
In business, “be absolutely honest and upright in all dealings. This is important, because if you look at the dealings happening in the States, it’s a little bit discouraging.”
Regarding philanthropy, “there are a lot of people who are fortunate to do well in this economy and they should share it. I’m not any smarter than anybody else. I’m just perhaps lucky that I’m in pharmaceuticals and not something else. The important thing is that we should remember those who are not as fortunate as we are.”
As for supporting causes across the Jewish religious spectrum, “I don’t believe we should in any way discriminate. We all have to stick together.”