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12/10/2010 in Headline News Bookmark and Share

Philanthropist George Vari was a major York supporter

George Vari, an engineer and philanthropist whose surname is almost synonymous with York, died yesterday in Toronto. He was 87.

With his wife Helen Vari (Hon. LLD '03), he was a major supporter of York University, and Vari Hall, the rounded, predominant "front door" of the Keele campus, is named for them. George Vari received an honorary degree from York in 1992, the year after it opened.

Right: George Vari

Born in Hungary in 1923 and trained as a lawyer, engineer and economist, George Vari immigrated to Canada after the Hungarian revolution of 1956. His professional passion was construction, and as a developer he achieved international success and built projects around the world, most notably the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, six pavilions at Expo ’67 in Montreal and the Hotel Cosmos in Moscow.

With Helen Vari, he created an outstanding record of philanthropic activity. Among countless charitable contributions spanning decades, their passion for education and research led them to become patrons of some of Toronto’s greatest institutions. Besides Vari Hall, they supported the George W. Vari Engineering and Computing Centre at Ryerson University, the Variscope Scholarships at Victoria University/OISE at the University of Toronto and the Vari Laboratory at Princess Margaret Hospital. And as a lover of nature and wildlife, George Vari with his wife created the George and Helen Vari Foundation Entrance Awards for undergraduate and graduate students in York's Faculty of Environmental Studies.

In 1992, George Vari was named to the Security Intelligence Review Committee and, as a result, became a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada entitled to be addressed as "Honourable". He has also been named to the Order of Canada and both he and Helen Vari have been appointed to France's Legion d'Honneur. George Vari was also invested as a Knight of Saint Gregory by the Vatican and in 2002 was a recipient of Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Medal.

Family knew George Vari as a warm, kind and caring uncle who enjoyed spending weekends, special occasions and vacations with multiple generations of family.  He is survived by his wife and fondly remembered by his relatives in the Vari, de Fabinyi, Hilkene, De Luca and Jackson families.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

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