Arts patron Walter Carsen dies at 100

By Naomi Brand
  • Walter Carsen / photo courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada

Described by The National Ballet of Canada as its “greatest patron”, businessman and philanthropist Walter Carsen died on October 8th, 2012 at the age of 100. Carsen’s generosity is unmatched in the history of The National Ballet of Canada. He underwrote twelve productions for the company, funded tours, campaigns and led the donations for construction of the ballet’s permanent home in Toronto, named in his honour. “He helped us achieve what we wanted to do. He was an inspiration through his generosity, leadership and great enthusiasm and he was also a great friend to the company,” said Artistic Director Karen Kain in a statement. In addition to his support of the ballet, he established the annual $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts and donated to the Shaw Festival, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the United Way, among other charities.

Carsen was born in Germany and came to Canada in 1941 where he built his fortune distributing photo and optical supplies. Among his many honours, Carsen was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995 and, in 2002, was promoted to officer of the Order of Canada. “When I see a need I believe in, I want to help,” said Carsen in an interview with the Toronto Star earlier this year. “Money is here to be spent. Give it where you love it and where it gives pleasure to others.”

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