Lawrence Bloomberg: Businessman and Chancellor

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Courtesy of Ryerson University

[L]awrence Bloomberg carries himself with confidence and ease. His answers are calculated and precise. But his poise is not unfounded: he has a lengthy career to back him up. Bloomberg is a businessman – a rather successful one – and the new chancellor of our university.

Becoming Ryerson’s ceremonial head did not seem like the obvious next step, however. Advised by a friend to pursue the job opening, Bloomberg looked back on his years as a student at Sir George Williams University, now Concordia University. He couldn’t help but notice certain similarities between his Alma mater and Ryerson, both nestled in the hustle of busy metropoleis.

“Like Ryerson, that was a downtown campus. I loved it, and I learned a lot,” he said. “I’ve seen Ryerson grow. I’ve heard of new buildings, new programs, and students doing interesting things. I thought it would be a really interesting place to play the role of chancellor.”

He went home that night, and after a chat with his wife the decision had been made: he’d toss his name in for consideration. Some time later, Sheldon Levy invited him for a campus tour and offered him the position.

Now, with January coming to a close, Bloomberg says he’s excited to take over.

“I’m quite honoured,” he said. “There’s the obvious honorific role of presiding over convocations and providing degrees, and I also have a role representing the university in the city, nationally, and internationally.”

So, here’s a look at the man who will hand you your diploma.

An ex-Montrealer, Bloomberg moved to Toronto 40 years ago, and has been active in the world of business ever since. He started his career as an entrepreneur in 1979 when he co-founded First Marathon, which at its prime was one of Canada’s leading investment dealers. When First Marathon was sold to the The National Bank twenty years later, he joined as advisor and director – a position he continues to hold today.

Along with his position at The National Bank, Bloomberg co-founded BloombergSen., an investment counselling firm he started with his son five and a half years ago, with innovative business at its heart. Bloomberg’s keen eye for new business ideas also carries over when speaking about Ryerson’s thriving Digital Media Zone.

“The one that gets a lot of publicity is the DMZ,” he said. “I think it is important not only because students are getting opportunities and creating commercial business…they’ll be comfortable doing innovative things. The university has unbelievable leadership….great staff, great teachers, wonderful programs that other universities don’t have.”

With Bloomberg’s success has come the opportunity to fund programs and initiatives he believes in. And although his new role as chancellor is only a part of his ongoing relationship with Canada’s post-secondary system.

Over the years, Bloomberg has funded secondary education and health care initiatives, which he calls “the to main pillars of Canadian society.” His knack for philanthropy started with the endowment of the Lawrence Bloomberg Chair in Accounting at Concordia, which he did in honour of one of his accounting professors. As well, his name was the first to be added to a nursing faculty in Canada, it being the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at UofT. He also sits on the board of Mount Sianai Hospital.

The list goes on.

Still, sitting in a large conference room overlooking the city skyline, Bloomberg admits his title still feels a bit new and different from anything he’s done before. But experience tells him this: he’ll find ways to become more involved with the university.

“It’s very early days. Ryerson has great programs underway. The last thing I’d want to do is to get in the way of any of that. I think in time I will find some spots I will become passionate about…you have a chancellor that will be glad to roll up his sleeves.”