Ms. Heather M. Reisman was born in 1948 in Montreal to Rose Gutwillig and Mark Reisman, and she is the niece of Simon Reisman, who helped negotiate the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
Ms. Reisman studied psychology at McGill University and she began her career working with troubled teens while raising her two children on her own. In 1979, she co-founded Paradigm Consulting, the world’s first strategic change consultancy. As managing director, Ms. Reisman pioneered strategies that remain the standard for organizations today.
A voracious reader since childhood, Ms. Reisman eventually followed her passion by launching Indigo Books & Music with the goal of creating a book lovers’ cultural department store that would inspire, inform and indulge customers. Five years later, she bought out her biggest competitor, Chapters, Inc., to become the largest book, gift and specialty toy retailer in Canada.
With more than 200 stores across Canada and a large e-commerce platform, Ms. Reisman is arguably the most influential figure in the Canadian book industry and ranks among the world’s most powerful businesswomen. She also distinguished herself as a former policy adviser to the federal Liberals, and as a major philanthropist together with her husband, entrepreneur Gerald Schwartz.
Ms. Reisman dedicates herself to global challenges, working relentlessly to improve literacy, health and well-being in Canada and around the world. She has spoken out about and invested in a wide range of issues, including underfunded school libraries, violence against women and society’s overconsumption of sugar. Proud of her Jewish heritage, she commits millions of dollars to Canada’s Jewish communities and in various charitable causes aimed at strengthening the bond between Canada and Israel.
Ms. Reisman is the Canadian Steering Committee member of the Bilderberg Group, an annual meeting of the world’s business, political, military and financial leaders. In addition, she serves on the boards of many organizations, including Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Onex Corporation, and has previously served as a Governor of the Toronto Stock Exchange and McGill University.
Her achievements and philanthropy have earned her many accolades, including four honorary doctorates and numerous business awards. In 2012, Ms. Reisman received this country’s most prestigious honour when she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2015, she became one of only two women to be inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.
In bestowing Ms. Reisman with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, the University of Manitoba recognizes her trailblazing accomplishments as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Heather M. Reisman