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Report on Business Edwin Leong’s foundation funds health-care programs for seniors and children

The donor: Edwin Leong

The gift: $49-million

The causes: The University of British Columbia and University of Toronto

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The reason: To fund programs to help the elderly and children

Hong Kong billionaire Edwin Leong May 24, 2019 in Simcoe Hall at the University of Toronto, where his name will be etched on the wall of major donors to the university after giving $25-million to study children's health.

Lisa Sakulensky/Handout

When Edwin Leong was growing up in China, his parents taught him the importance of respecting elders and caring for young people.

“That had been deep in my mind for ages,” Mr. Leong recalled from his office in Hong Kong, where he runs Tai Hung Fai Enterprise Co. Ltd., a property developer.

Mr. Leong travelled to Vancouver in the late 1960s as a teenager and finished high school in the city. He went on to study computer science at the University of British Columbia and returned to Hong Kong after graduating. He couldn’t find work so he came back to Canada and earned a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Toronto in 1974. He headed back to Hong Kong once more and after a couple of failed ventures he turned to real estate and has become one of the city’s most successful retail developers.

A few years ago, Mr. Leong, 67, launched a charitable foundation aimed at funding health-care programs for seniors and children. Even though he hadn’t been in Canada for more than 40 years, he came into contact with officials from UBC and U of T and began discussing donations. That led to a $24-million gift to UBC to start a healthy-aging program and a $25-million donation to U of T for a centre for healthy children.

Mr. Leong cares for his 97-year-old mother and he stopped travelling outside Hong Kong decades ago to be close to her. However, he managed to return to Canada recently for the first time since his university days, visiting Vancouver and Toronto. “It’s about time I looked at Toronto,” he said with a laugh. “Probably Toronto has changed beyond my imagination.”

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