Murray B. Koffler: A Pillar of Pharmacy

Visionary businessman, philanthropist and U of T alumnus Murray Bernard Koffler died on Sunday at his home in Toronto. He was 93. Perhaps best known as the founder of Shoppers Drug Mart and co-founder of the Four Seasons Hotels Ltd., Murray was also deeply committed to improving the lives of Canadians through his philanthropy.

“Few people have had the impact on the profession of pharmacy, and by extension the health of Canadians that Murray has had,” said Heather Boon, Dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.  “His innovations in education including the Koffler Academy, the Koffler Institute, the Murray B Koffler Chair in Pharmacy Management and the Murray B Koffler Administrative Centre on the 5th floor of our Faculty, have changed how generations of pharmacists think about primary care and community pharmacy practice.”

Born in a four-room apartment above his father’s drugstore on College Street, Murray graduated with a degree in pharmacy from the University of Toronto in 1946, and soon after assumed the reins of the family business. Over the next several decades Murray, drawing on his talent for innovation, revolutionized the pharmaceutical retail market and transformed the field of pharmacy in Canada. Today, more than 1,300 stores operate under two names:  Shoppers Drug Mart in nine provinces and two territories, and Pharmaprix in Quebec.

“Since his graduation, Murray has become one of our best known alumni and one of the Faculty’s strongest partners and supporters,” said Dean Boon.  “Since he founded Shoppers Drug Mart with an innovative new model of practice, many of our graduates have worked with him. His vision regarding the need to incorporate pharmaceconomics, pharmacoepidemiology, and change management skills into pharmacy training and curriculum is even more important today than when he first advocated for it.”

The recipient of numerous awards and accolades, Murray was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 1991, received the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy 2013 Pillar of Pharmacy Award, and has been honoured with the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada. First appointed to the Order of Canada in 1977, for his “many services to his community as businessman, philanthropist and patron of the arts,” Murray was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1995.

“Murray Koffler described himself as ‘just a simple pharmacist,’ said U of T President Meric Gertler. “In reality, he was one of our country’s most successful businessmen and greatest humanitarians. A generous supporter of education, the arts, medicine and social justice, in all of his contributions his aim was to create a better, fairer and stronger Canada.”

Murray Koffler is survived by his wife, Marvelle, five children, and many grandchildren.