Helen Vari

Helen Vari receives a Honorary Degree 2022

Doctor of Letters

(honoris causa) DLitt

Mrs. Helen Vari is an eminent Canadian philanthropist and the President of the George and Helen Vari Foundation. Throughout her life, she has contributed greatly to the betterment of society.

Mrs. Vari was educated in both Austria and Hungary. After the 1956 Hungarian revolution, she came to Canada and she married her late husband: The Honourable George W. Vari. The couple established an international engineering and construction company.

Mrs. Vari has long been known for her outstanding philanthropy, her volunteer engagements, and her support of numerous educational and cultural institutions.

Following her late husband’s footsteps, she has been a lifelong supporter of education, as well as a person committed to ensuring students of all abilities and backgrounds have opportunities to study. The George and Helen Vari Foundation was created in 1984 to promote education in Canada and cultural and educational exchange, and it has provided philanthropic gifts to a number of institutions, such as the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the Princess Margaret Hospital, Victoria University at the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the National Arts Centre among many others.

Mrs. Vari is following her beloved late husband’s philosophy that education is the most important factor in our society for the betterment of the world.

She was also a primary financial contributor through the Vimy Foundation to the construction of the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

Along with her commitment to education, Helen Vari has been a member of many important organizations, including the Vimy Foundation; The Canada Council for the Arts, the Alliance Francaise de Toronto, Maison des étudiants Canadiens at the University of Paris, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, and the Leukemia Research Foundation of Canada, among many others. She is the Founding and Honorary President of the World Monuments Fund, France, a foundation dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. Under her leadership, the Foundation has participated in the restoration of several major landmarks including la Cathédrale Saint-Louis-des-Invalides in Paris.

Mrs. Vari's contributions have been widely recognized. She has received prestigious honours, including: The Order of Canada, Grand Officier, Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France), Dame Commander of Merit of the Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta; Queen Elizabeth II 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee and 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Medals; Officier du Mérite National (France); and honorary doctorates from York University, Toronto Metropolitan University, Victoria University, University of Toronto, and the University of Ontario Institute and Technology and St. Francis Xavier University.