PETER MUNK, who passed away on March 28 at the age of 90, was one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs and one of its most passionate citizens. He was also an exceptionally generous philanthropist who, together with his wife, Melanie, gave the University of Toronto the landmark gift that established the Munk School of Global Affairs. Many of the same forces that shaped Peter’s extraordinary life—energetic curiosity, deep engagement, a drive for excellence—animate the school that he made possible.
Munk arrived in Canada in 1948 on a student visa, a few years after a narrow escape from Nazi-occupied Hungary, and four years later earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto. He remembered always the warm welcome he received as a young man who arrived “not speaking your language, not knowing a dog,” and retained a lifelong gratitude to his alma mater and to Canada.
As Munk pursued a career that spanned the world—notably as founder and builder of Barrick Gold Corporation—he remained rooted in Canada, insisting that it was not only a land of opportunity but also an international leader. He was a patriot in the best sense of the word: he profoundly believed that Canada should lead the global conversation on the most pressing issues of the day. And he and Melanie believed in U of T’s potential to drive that leadership.
They envisioned an institution capable of strengthening Canada’s presence on the world stage while, in Peter Munk’s words, helping to “create the knowledge that improves people’s lives.” In support of that vision, they made a foundational gift of $35 million in 2010 to create a world-leading academic enterprise, the Munk School of Global Affairs (now the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy). Their gifts to his alma mater eventually totaled more than $51 million, and Peter took on the role of an honorary chair of U of T’s Boundless campaign.
“I’m not a scientist. I’m not an Einstein. I’m not going to come up with a new economic theory, nor will I ever get the Nobel Prize,” Munk said. “Philanthropy is the perfect way for me to achieve all the things that I find critical—giving back to society, paying back to the country that has given me everything.”
Building a Better Canada
TOP: Peter Munk. Photo courtesy of The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
ABOVE: Peter Munk seen third from the left in the archival article. Image scanned from the book The Biography of Peter Munk.