Compassion can so often be a fleeting thing. For Mr. Abdo El Tassi, though, compassion is a daily practice and his lifetime devoted to selfless acts has transformed communities around the globe. He embodies the spirit of the University of Manitoba: hard work, ingenuity, service, global perspective and borderless outreach. This is why the University of Manitoba is proud to award Abdo El Tassi an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Mr. El Tassi was born in Lebanon, where he became a schoolteacher and principal. He came to Winnipeg in 1969 and his first job was loading trucks in the shipping department of Peerless Garments. In 1978, he was appointed their General Manager and by 2003, he had become President and CEO. Since that time he has increased the company’s annual sales from $3 to $45 million. He brings this drive to the many boards on which he sits, including the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice in St. Paul’s College.
Mr. El Tassi has sponsored dozens of people to come to Canada and established training and development opportunities at Peerless Garments for newcomers to learn marketable skills and English. To date, he has provided over $1.7 million in interest-free loans to cover business startup costs, mortgages and university tuition for immigrants building new lives in Canada. He once helped a former Secretary of State for External Affairs reunite two boys in Lebanon with their mother in Winnipeg.
As a founder of the Islamic Social Services Association of Manitoba, the Al Hijra Islamic School, and the Mosque of Thompson, Manitoba, Mr. El Tassi has exhibited his commitment and dedication to his personal faith. He is also a member of the Arab Jewish Dialogue group, which helps bolster relations between differing cultures and religions in Canada. Beyond our borders, Mr. El Tassi is so dedicated to the worldwide effort to remove landmines from war-torn countries that the President of Lebanon has personally congratulated his efforts.
Mr. El Tassi is foremost a family man. He has four children and sixteen grandchildren, but he has made the world his family, and the children of the world - their education and well-being - are a top priority. His donations to Free the Children have enabled the building of several schools. He has given to the University of Manitoba, Sick Kids Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages Canada, UNICEF, the United Way and World Vision.
Over the past seven years he has supported the Mauro Centre’s Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival and is the largest personal contributor to the Military Family Fund, which provides support to families of the Canadian Armed Forces.
A recipient of the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, Mr. El Tassi is also a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba. Today, he joins the roster of distinguished global citizens celebrated by the University of Manitoba.
Abdo (Albert) El Tassi