He was born in Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary, in 1928, one of six children in an Orthodox Jewish family whose happy life was destroyed by the Holocaust. When he was 16 and studying in Budapest, his parents, two brothers, three sisters and grandfather were shipped to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Arnold spent the next several months in a forced-labour camp before making a miraculous escape.
After the war, he was taken to Norway, where he studied electronics - a skill he put to use as an Air Force volunteer in the Israeli War of Independence. Although he discovered that two of his sisters had miraculously survived and were living in Israel, he returned to Norway. In 1951, he decided to start life anew in Canada. He was headed to an arranged job in Ontario, but on a whim headed for Winnipeg where he hoped to find the Wild West he had fallen in love with as a child through the movies. He found a job and new friends, one of whom, Minnie Heft, encouraged him to pursue a university education. He feared that poor English and a lack of money would stand in his way, but passed the entrance exam. With a $1,000 gift from Mrs. Heft, he started a business to finance his studies. He fixed and re-sold car radios purchased from wrecking yards.
Mr. Frieman considers his years at the University of Manitoba among the most impactful of his life. He graduated in 1960 with a bachelor of arts degree and a renewed belief in possibilities, as well as the love of Myra Thompson, whom he married that same year.
In 1962, he bought the small television repair shop that would become Advance Electronics. Within 12 years, Advance had grown into the largest independently owned electronics store in Western Canada.
One of the joys of his success is his ability to give back. The many organizations he has supported range from iconic arts groups to small, grassroots causes. His generosity made possible the premiere of I Believe, a Holocaust oratorio that helps people everywhere appreciate the importance of peace and justice. His inclusive style of philanthropy encourages creativity and kindness.
His many contributions to his alma mater include support for the University of Manitoba-University of Szeged Partnership, which funds exchanges between Hungarian and Manitoban scholars.
Over the years, his achievements have been recognized with numerous honours, most notably his induction into the Order of Manitoba in 2006.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Arnold Frieman, an exceptional global citizen and builder of this community.