History

Sir Joseph Flavelle and the Sir Joseph Flavelle Foundation

The Flavelle family emigrated from Ireland during the Potato Famine of the 1850’s. Born in 1858, Joseph Wesley Flavelle was raised in a family that continued to experience economic hardship in Canada. Although dropping out of school, he had remarkable business skills and, at the age of 18, Flavelle became a partner in an organization selling farm products. In 1887 Flavelle left his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario with his wife Clara Ellsworth and moved to Toronto where he was invited to become a general manager and part owner of the William Davies Company. His success at Canada’s original meat packaging firm lead him to become a prominent figure in finance and commerce as chairman of the Bank of Commerce, the National Trust Company and Simpson’s Ltd.

During World War I, the British Government appointed Flavelle chairman of the Imperial Munitions Board. In this role he was able to correct previous mismanagement of the production of ammunition being sent overseas from Canada to be used in infantry weapons. In 1917 Flavelle’s service to his country was rewarded by the King of England with a baronetcy. Sir Joseph Flavelle was the last resident citizen of Canada to receive a hereditary title.  

Sir Joseph Flavelle devoted much of his wealth and energy to charities, needy individuals and public service. He played an instrumental role in the affairs of the University of Toronto, the Methodist Church, the Toronto General Hospital and the Canadian National Railroad. Sir Joseph died in 1939 at the age of 82 and the Sir Joseph Flavelle Foundation was established in 1945. Family members voluntarily sit as members of the Foundation and share roles of chairmanship and stewardship to continue Flavelle’s interests in philanthropy. The words he often quoted are found engraved on the mantelpiece in Flavelle House, a building he later donated to the University of Toronto;

            …Two things stand like stone: kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own.

Click here to view Sir Joseph Flavelle’s autobiography.


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