The Honorable Richard H. Kroft
CM.; B.A., LL.B.(Man.)
Today, Richard Kroft, CM., will receive his third degree from the University of Manitoba. A graduate of both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Law, Richard Kroft is known locally and nationally for the significant contributions he has made in business, politics, and community life. In each of these diverse fields, his work has been characterized by a consistent sense of purpose, personal character and leadership that resulted not only in success for many organizations but, moreover, allowed others to benefit from his wisdom, good counsel and constant adherence to the highest set of values.
Richard Kroft is President of Tryton Investments Co. Ltd. and Chairman of Conviron, a world class technology company with headquarters in Winnipeg. Following graduation from Law in 1963, Mr. Kroft joined McCabe Grain Co. Ltd. where he became involved with providing financing for and later, ownership of, a young company developing new technology for a plant growth chamber. During the past 40 years, the company, now known as Conviron, has grown into the world leader in the design and manufacture of controlled environmental systems for agricultural, ecological and other life science research with installations in more than 80 countries. Mr. Kroft has also served on the Board of Directors of a number of local and national corporations. Richard Kroft’s foresight and business leadership were recognized by his peers when they selected him as an inaugural member of the Manitoba Manufacturers Hall of Fame.
On two separate occasions, Mr. Kroft took time from business to work with the federal government. Shortly after he started his career, he moved to Ottawa to become the Special Assistant to the Minister of Finance and Executive Assistant to the Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mitchell Sharp. A few years later, he returned to Winnipeg and his growing business interests in this city. Richard Kroft was summoned back to Ottawa in 1998 when Prime Minister Jean Cretien appointed him to the Senate of Canada. During six years in the Upper Chamber, Mr. Kroft chaired both the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, and the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. As he had always done in his other activities, Richard Kroft brought intellectual rigor, clarity of thought and creativity to his new responsibilities. Under his leadership, the Internal Economy Committee made significant changes that resulted in more efficient resource allocations and improved operations in the Senate. The Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee produced an important report on bankruptcy and insolvency and began what was to become an influential study into charitable giving in Canada.
In what is often a highly partisan environment, Senator Richard Kroft gained the respect and admiration of members from all parties as well as the administration. On his retirement in 2004, Senator Lucie Pepin commented that the Senate had come to know and respect Senator Kroft for "his extraordinary intellectual, moral and professional integrity...his personality and the quality of his work."
In addition to his accomplishments in business and public life, Richard Kroft has distinguished himself in making our community a better place for all. He was a member of Winnipeg 2000, the Executive Committee for the 1999 Pan-American Games, the Manitoba Business Council, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, the Associates of the Asper School of Business, and the University of Manitoba's Honorary Campaign Cabinet. One of his most significant and lasting contributions is his service to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet where as a long standing board member and president, he spearheaded the campaign for a new permanent home for the ballet in downtown Winnipeg.
David Matthews of the Kettering Foundation once said, "Democracies need something more than written constitutions, free elections and representative governments. They also depend on a strong public life, a rich depository of social capital, a sense of community, and a healthy civil society." The relationship is reciprocal in that while "only a democracy can support a civil society, only a civil society will sustain a democracy."
Richard Kroft has made a singular contribution to the development of democracy and a more civil society in our city, the province and our country. In recognition of his dedication to a better Canada, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997. Richard Kroft is a most worthy recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater, the University of Manitoba.
-citation delivered by mentor, Professor Harvey Secter, Dean, Faculty of Law