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Eye On: Sylvan Adams
September 30, 2015

(Melissa Moy is special projects associate for Glasspockets. For more information about Sylvan and Margaret Adams and the other Giving Pledgers, visit Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge.)

Generosity has become a family legacy for the son of a Holocaust survivor.

Sylvan-adams-150Sylvan and Margaret Adams joined the Giving Pledge last week, whereby individuals pledge to give away most of their wealth during their lifetime.   Sylvan Adams is president and CEO of the Quebec-based real estate firm Iberville Developments.

“From my parents’ example, it was natural for me to continue the family tradition of trying to do some good in the world around me,” Sylvan Adams said in the couple’s Giving Pledge letter.  

Adams, 56, learned about philanthropy from his parents, Marcel and the late Annie Adams. 

After surviving three years in a Nazi labor camp in his native Romania, Marcel Adams fought in the Israeli War of Independence before moving to Quebec City in 1951.  He earned a living as a tanner until an investment in a housing project yielded a 70% return.  He founded Iberville Developments in 1958. 

Over the years, Marcel Adams built the family real estate empire in Quebec.  Marcel Adams made Forbes Magazine’s Billionaires list in 2013 and 2014.  Today, the family owns and manages 100 properties that span 8 million square feet and feature shopping centers, offices, industrial properties and residences.

Sylvan Adams

  • Quebec City, Canada, native
  • President and CEO of Quebec-based Iberville Developments
  • Trustee, Jewish General Hospital Foundation in Quebec
  • Award-winning competitive bicycle racer
  • Net worth is approximately $1 Billion

Sylvan Adams, who holds an MBA from the University of Toronto, said that his parents taught him about philanthropy and giving.  “My parents were generous givers early on, when they didn’t have great means,” he said.

The family’s donations escalated as their business and wealth grew.  In 1986, the family launched the Marcel and Annie Adams Institute for Business management Information Systems at Tel Aviv University.

Father and son both serve as Board trustees for the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, which supports the Jewish General Hospital, a 637-bed McGill University teaching hospital in Quebec.

It was natural for me to continue the family tradition of trying to do some good in the world.

The family is notoriously private, especially the media-shy, 95-year-old Marcel Adams.  Sylvan Adams and his British-born wife, Margaret, have been married for 30 years and live in Westmount, an affluent suburb of Montreal. 

With assets of nearly $11 million, the Sylvan Adams Family Foundation made two grants totaling nearly $1.2 million in 2014 to promote Jewish culture. The foundation gave $1 million to the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal and $194,232 to The Canadian Committee for the Tel Aviv Foundation to promote Jewish culture, education and programs.

So why would such a private philanthropist take such a public pledge like the Giving Pledge? Sylvan Adams said he is inspired and motivated by the competitive nature of the Giving Pledge.

“The Giving Pledge is inspiring successful men and women to engage in what I would call ‘competitive’ philanthropy,” Sylvan Adams said.  “Directing the same competitive instincts that these driven people employed to achieve the pinnacle of financial and social success, the Giving Pledge is encouraging us to outdo one another in giving our wealth away.  Brilliant!!!”

The real estate magnate said he wants the family tradition of philanthropy to be a “generational project,” so that his children and future grandchildren work to “improve things around us, in appreciation of our good fortune.”

--Melissa Moy


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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the GlassPockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Candid highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

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