Bringing you the issues since 1986

View Online Print Edition


With patience and determination, Segal is a man for all seasons

June, 2010

Two minutes into the interview, Montreal businessman and philanthropist Alvin Segal’s new hearing aid begins to emit a whistling sound.

Without becoming the least bit ruffled, Segal adjusts the device calmly but persistently, while saying with a smile: “If you have to lose one of your senses, your hearing is the best one to lose.”

Perhaps it is these qualities of patience, determination and the ability to react to the moment that have contributed to Segal’s spectacular financial success.

Having started his career at 18, working in his stepfather’s suit factory, Peerless Clothing, Segal is chairman and CEO of the enterprise that has become the world’s largest men’s fine tailored clothing company.

“My experience and education came from the business community, trying to sell to every retailer, trying to please my customers,” Segal says, explaining that university was not an option. “I’ve always been out in the world, learning about peoples’ needs, seeing what’s going on, how you can survive in this world.”

Countless Montrealers have already and will continue to benefit from this success. Alvin and Leanor Segal’s contribution to education, medicine and the arts is renowned. The couple has donated $1 million to McGill University and $24 million to the Jewish General Hospital, in particular for cancer care and research.

But it is the Yiddish Theatre, to which Leanor introduced him and that the Segals rescued when it was in a crisis in 2007, that is closest to his heart.

“I grew up with a mother and grandmother who spoke Yiddish. That European culture always fascinated me.”

Segal says it’s imperative that the Centre expand its audience by incorporating diverse cultures and different age groups, reflecting the fabric of Montreal.

Alvin Segal says Yiddish Theatre is closest to his heart. Photo: Paul Ducharme

“The world is turning; you have to move with it. If you don’t keep changing in your business, you die.”

He recalls being suddenly immersed in the colourful atmosphere of the city when he arrived here from Albany, N.Y. at 14.

“They had streetcars and trolley cars, lots of people. The French language was a whole new world for me.” In addition to Yiddish Theatre’s The Megillah of Itzik Manger in June, the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts features excellent English and French drama throughout the year.

The 2010-2011 season begins with Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, in October, followed by Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, Billy Bishop Goes to War, La Sagouine and Lies my Father Told Me, with original music and lyrics by Elan Kunin.

French-language productions include Passages, written and performed by Catherine Dajczman, Recovery and La Memoire des Vivants.

For the first time, dance performances are planned, as indie, jazz and classical music concerts resume. Having forged an alliance with Musica Camerata, three performances are scheduled this season with one of Canada’s foremost chamber ensembles. CinemaSpace thrives under the direction of Ezra Soiferman, with screenings of a documentary series on environmental issues and classic and independent films.

Young people have a special importance at the Segal, as they are its future. “As you get older, you realize young people rule the world. We created the art lounge for them. We want to keep them here.”

A special Key to Culture card functions like a debit card and simplifies access to events as well as food and drink at the centre.

“Art brings people together and is a positive force in society,” Segal says. “My passion is to make this a cultural centre like you’ve never seen in Montreal.”




Post a Comment