Enduring Legacy: Jack Leitch Award in Entrepreneurial Thinking

A beloved leader, colleague, friend, and family man, Jack’s 99 remarkable years of life light the path for future generations both today and for years to come. Jack Leitch leaves an enduring legacy – not only because of his many great achievements and accolades, but because of his great courage and generosity.

In 1954, Jack succeeded his father Gordon Leitch as President of The Northland Shipping Company and grew the company into one of Canada’s three Great Lakes shipping titans. Known for pushing boundaries and challenging norms, Jack transformed the face of the shipping industry by introducing innovative ship designs and inventing first-of-its-kind large vessels with self-unloading capability. Some of Jack’s many other notable accomplishments include: serving as Founding Director of the Board of Governors of the Chamber of Maritime Commerce; “The Great Lakes Man of the Year” award in 1975 for his instrumental impact in preserving the integrity of the shipping industry; and protecting it from tyrants and corrupt officials like labour union leader Hal Banks during the turbulent times of the industry in the 1960’s; and the “Officer of the Member of Canada” appointment in 2000 for his exemplary service and contributions to the shipping industry and the seaway, and to the nation as a whole. Jack’s great courage is equaled only in scale by his generosity as he also championed people and causes closest to his heart – whether through serving on various boards to sparing a moment to speak with every person he crossed paths with.

“My father had core values that he followed through his family and business life. Empathy, honesty, and courage. Empathy for others and what they were experiencing; honesty to stand up for what is right; and courage to act on his convictions. I believe that these values, which were initiated by his family, were what shaped his success in all aspects of his life,” shared daughter Jean Vander Ploeg when asked about his father’s enduring impact and legacy.

Jack’s impact and legacy in the Schulich and York community had taken root during the School’s founding year when he made his first donation toward the Founders Fund at York University in 1965. Jack’s closest friend, Dr. James Gillies, was the Founding Dean of the School, which was then known as the Faculty of Administrative Studies, and their lifelong friendship spanned almost four decades. Jack was a member of York University’s Board of Governors for many years until 1988 alongside fellow member James Gillies. Over the years that followed, Jack had championed and contributed to the success, growth, and innovation of the Schulich School of Business and York University through his generous support of various initiatives like student awards, scholarships, and bursaries; capital projects and university-wide campaigns; and the Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance among many others. The impact of that first gift that Jack made fifty-six years ago, and the countless more that came after it, has remained a force for good inspiring generations, new and old, to always aspire for and do bigger things entrenched in Jack’s core values of empathy, honesty, and courage.

To celebrate Jack Leitch’s all-encompassing generosity, the legendary accomplishments in his career, and the indelible mark that he left within the Schulich and York communities, the Jack Leitch Award in Entrepreneurial Thinking has been established at the Schulich School of Business through a generous bequest of $250,000 from the Estate of John Daniel Leitch (a.k.a. Jack Leitch). The award will recognize and empower incoming MBA students who embody Jack’s entrepreneurial spirit and acumen, while also demonstrating experience in innovation, product design, leadership, and entrepreneurship. The recipient will have a concept mapped out for a startup company they want to pursue while at the School or will have a company they are building already and want to continue developing while at the School. To be eligible, applicants must submit a cover letter and resume. The recipient will also be offered one-on-one mentorship and ongoing support from a Schulich Entrepreneur-in-Residence and membership within The Schulich Startups Community, a group of more than 150 Schulich Founders.

The inaugural recipient will be announced in the 2021-2022 academic year. To find out more information, please contact finaid@schulich.yorku.ca


A Glimpse into the Extraordinary Life of Jack Leitch

Leitch Collage

Leitch Canadian Navy Volunteer
John Daniel Leitch, Lieutenant, RCNVR (Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve).


“The Great Lakes Man of the Year” award ceremony, 1975.
“The Great Lakes Man of the Year” award ceremony, 1975.


“Officer of the Member of Canada”, investiture ceremony, 2000.
“Officer of the Member of Canada”, investiture ceremony, 2000.


Upper Lakes Shipping Company 75th Anniversary Company Celebration
The Upper Lakes Shipping Company 75th Anniversary Company Celebration.