Murray and Marvelle Koffler

Murray Bernard Koffler (1924–2017), OC, O.Ont., PhD, LL.D., born in Toronto to Romanian immigrants Ernestina “Tiana” Reinhorn and Leon H. Koffler, was a business leader and philanthropist. He was largely known as the founder of Shoppers Drug Mart, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Super-Pharm Israel Limited.

Marvelle Koffler (1929–2020), O.Ont., PhD, the daughter of Eva and Irving Seligman, was a well-known philanthropist who founded many organizations in addition to supporting Murray in his business endeavours.

The couple married in 1950 in Toronto and had five children: Leon, Theo, Tom, Adam, and Tiana.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Leon Koffler founded two pharmacies in Toronto named Koffler’s Drugs. A few years after Leon’s demise in 1942, Murray attended the Ontario College of Pharmacy and took over the management of his father’s pharmacies. Murray grew his father’s business and opened Canada’s first self-serve drugstore in 1956. He then started Shoppers Drug Mart and expanded the company across Canada and into the United States. By the time Shoppers Drug Mart had completed its first public offering in 2001, it was Canada’s largest drugstore chain and the only one operating nationally from coast to coast. Using Shoppers Drug Mart as a model, Murray established Super-Pharm in Israel in 1977, which later became Israel’s national drugstore chain. Murray also co-founded the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts with Eddie Creed, Isadore “Issy” Sharp, and Max Sharp.

Murray and Marvelle established and fostered dozens of non-profit organizations in Canada in the fields of the arts, Jewish culture and education, science and research, humanitarian efforts, and equestrian sports. They supported organizations such as the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital and founded countless projects with lasting legacies like the Koffler Centre of the Arts, the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Bar Mitzvah Foundation, and the Council on Drug Abuse. Additionally, they were among the founding families of Temple Emanu-El. Murray and Marvelle purchased the estate and horse farm at Jokers Hill and continued the tradition of hosting equine sporting events. In 1995, Murray and Marvelle generously donated their equestrian estate at Jokers Hill to the University of Toronto to form the Koffler Scientific Reserve.

In Israel, Murray and Marvelle’s interests extended into the fields of science, education, and the arts. One of the major organizations they supported was the Weizmann Institute of Science, where they helped establish multiple facilities and founded the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Murray and Marvelle received many recognitions for their great contribution to society over their lifetimes. Among their highest honours was the Order of Ontario. Murray was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1977 and then promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada in the 1990s.

Archivist Notes

Whether through entrepreneurship or philanthropy, this dynamic pair demonstrated their values and commitment to the community by founding and supporting a myriad of organizations, both locally and in Israel. Also, with the purchase of Jokers Hill, they promoted a shared passion for equestrian sports in Canada and worldwide, welcoming notable guests like Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The Koffler fonds at the OJA includes many remarkable personal records documenting the couple’s collaborative efforts in the arts, sciences, education, and many other realms, telling an inspirational story of Marvelle and Murray’s partnership not only in work but also in life.

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