Chancellors' Circle of Benefactors wordmark

The John and Deborah Harris Family Foundation

John and Deborah Harris are helping educate and nurture many of Canada’s most promising innovators and entrepreneurs through their pacesetting contributions to U of T.

John Harris (MBA 1977) is the former chair, president and CEO of Harris Steel Group Inc., a company established in 1954 by his uncle Milton E. Harris (BCom 1949 UC) in London Ontario. John Harris joined Harris Steel in 1974, and wore many hats over his more than 40-year tenure with the firm. John remained with Harris Steel after it was sold to Nucor Corporation in 2007 and retired in 2014.

Through the family foundation that bears their name, John Harris and his wife Deborah support a number of causes principally focused on education. Beneficiaries of their philanthropy include Right to Play, the University of British Columbia, Scientists in the School and Women’s Habitat Etobicoke.

At the University of Toronto, the foundation’s nearly $8.8 million in support has largely focused on nurturing entrepreneurship, helping the University emerge as a hotbed for startup companies. In particular, John Harris has been closely associated with the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at the Rotman School of Management, which is recognized as one of the world’s fastest-growing venture labs. He was one of the earliest investors who helped get the lab off the ground in 2012. He has continued to support the CDL through further giving and has served as an expert mentor for students.

With their sustained commitments to the University of Toronto through their foundation, John and Deborah Harris are helping educate and support new generations of entrepreneurs that are vital to Canada’s future prosperity.