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Mrs. Helen Vari (1931-2023)

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

Faculty of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science
Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science 

For her extraordinary philanthropic and volunteer contributions to Canada through service to the arts, education, heritage preservation and health care, we are proud to confer upon Mrs. Helen Vari the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Mrs. Vari has been described as a lifelong supporter of education, as well as a person committed to ensuring students of all abilities and backgrounds have opportunities to prosper. She spent her early life in Hungary and married her late husband, the Honourable George Vari, in Montreal, Quebec. Her travels taught her that, as she is known for saying, “a country cannot survive without engineers”. Indeed, the Vari’s engineering and construction company, SEFRI Construction International, offered employment and career success to hundreds of professional engineers who constructed airports, hotels and high-rise buildings around the world.  

The Vari’s strong belief in the opportunity provided by education led them to establish the Vari Foundation in 1984, of which Mrs. Vari is President. The foundation has helped students at many educational institutions with scholarship donations, as well as support for teaching programs and financial gifts. 

Along with her leadership of the Vari Foundation, she has served on the boards of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alliance Française de Toronto. Her service is also international in scope through work on the Maison des étudiants Canadiens at the University of Paris as well as her role as the Founding President of the World Monuments Fund. 

For her philanthropic and volunteer work, she has received many international honours, including membership as an officer in l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur de France. She is an Officer in France’s Ordre National du Mérit, and a Commandant de l’Ordre de Malta. In Canada, Mrs. Vari is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee medals.

Helen Vari passed away in March 2023 at the age of 91.