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Jack Cockwell: Champion of TMU

Daphne Cockwell

Daphne Cockwell

The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) community is fortunate to call legendary business strategist Jack L. Cockwell a supporter and friend. Cockwell is a founding partner, director and former president and CEO of Brookfield Corporation. The Cockwell family, and Brookfield Partners Foundation (where he serves as Chair), have donated more than $75 million to TMU, placing them among TMU’s most generous benefactors.  

According to one Board member, when you see the Mattamy Athletic Centre, The Image Centre, and the Student Learning Centre, you are seeing “Jack in action.” With his help and expertise, the university truly stepped into its role as city builder.

“Jack has always been there with us at the forefront of Ryerson’s [now TMU’s] development,” said former President Sheldon Levy. Cockwell’s generosity with his resources, expertise and time — including his hard work and strategic insight as a member of the Board of Governors — has helped transform the student experience and evolve the university as a city builder and a leader in education, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

An $8 million gift from the Cockwell family and Brookfield Partners Foundation helped lead to the opening of the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex in November 2019, a project dear to Cockwell. The building was named for his mother, Daphne, who embodied the generous spirit that remains at the heart of the TMU community. Known for providing compassionate care, Daphne served as a nurse in the 1940s during the Second World War, and was committed to helping others throughout her life. 

The Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex houses the School of Nutrition, the School of Occupational and Public Health, the Midwifery Education Program and, of course, the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, the largest school of nursing in Canada, which was named in recognition of a $5 million gift from Cockwell and Brookfield Partners Foundation. The Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing was the first school of nursing in the country to be named after a nurse. Today, it continues to prepare nursing graduates to lead anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and socially responsive practices to advance inclusive care and equitable outcomes for all. 

In 2004, TMU (then-Ryerson University) bestowed upon Cockwell an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce. In his convocation speech, to an audience of graduands, their families and friends, he advised them to build strong teams, saying “Two people pulling together will always achieve more than 10 individuals going their separate ways.”

Together with his family and Brookfield Partners Foundation, Cockwell’s visionary giving invests in student talent, helps realize student potential, and strengthens students’ capacity to innovate. In 2014, Cockwell’s generosity launched the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, funding groundbreaking research and serving as a source of policy expertise and thought leadership on today’s most relevant issues related to innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of the gift also supported building the iconic Sheldon & Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre — the university’s spectacular footprint on Yonge Street, which opened in 2015. 

Janice Fukakusa, former Chancellor and former Chair of the Board of Governors noted that “Jack Cockwell’s generosity to [TMU] has created extraordinary opportunity for students. His support encourages and inspires the young innovators and entrepreneurs who will be the drivers of our emerging economy.”

Jack Cockwell on the day he received an honorary doctorate from Toronto Metropolitan University. (Photograph Courtesy of Toronto Metropolitan University Archives)

Jack Cockwell (Photograph Courtesy of Toronto Metropolitan University Archives)

A friend of Ray Chang from his days on Bay Street, Jack Cockwell also supported the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, where he served on the building fundraising committee. Cockwell was a cabinet member during the university’s Invest in Futures and Make Your Mark fundraising campaigns. He has also served as Chair of the university’s Real Estate Advisory Committee. 

Cockwell first served on TMU’s Board of Governors from 1995 to 2001. He returned to serve from 2005 to 2015, helping develop the university’s Campus Master Plan. Cockwell continued on the Board from 2016 to 2019, and now serves as an Honorary member. Fellow Board members just do not want to see him go. They describe serving with Cockwell as a privilege and an unforgettable experience, through which they witnessed his sharp decision making skills, inquisitiveness, humble generosity and propensity for quiet reflection that leads to precise advice and guidance. Working with him, one member said, is “akin to having Wayne Gretzky on your team always passing you the puck.”

Cockwell was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 2009 and, in 2016, became a member of the Order of Canada. In addition to being Chair of Brookfield Partners Foundation, he has served in a voluntary capacity on a number of community organization boards, including as a Heritage Governor at the Royal Ontario Museum, a Governor of Trails Youth Initiatives, a board member of Waterfront Toronto, the Honorary Campaign Chair for the Trans Canada Trail, and Chair of Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve. 

Additionally, the TMU community partnered with the Cockwell family’s Trails Youth Initiative, a wilderness camp for inner city youth to learn about themselves and achieve their potential. All of Cockwell’s contributions, both financial and through sharing his time and knowledge, have built more pathways for young people to seize opportunity and become leaders both locally and globally.