Martha Cohen, Calgary philanthropist, dies

Martha Cohen, a longtime stalwart of charitable giving in Calgary, has died.

Theatre at Arts Commons bears name of Order of Canada recipient

Martha Cohen, a long-time stalwart of charitable giving in Calgary, has died.

Cohen passed away Thursday morning. The philanthropist’s list of accomplishments is lengthy.

Calgary philanthropist Martha Cohen died on Thursday. (Harry and Martha Cohen Foundation)

Over the years, Cohen chaired the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts, the Mount Royal College board of governors and was president of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada.

Former Senator Ron Ghitter knew the Order of Canada recipient well.

“She liked to stay up late. She liked doing crossword puzzles. She liked bringing the girls in to play mahjong,” he said.

“She was just a very important part of the growth of the Calgary community, and her footprint … can be seen in many places.”

The Harry and Martha Cohen Foundation provides regular grants to local charities.

She was instrumental in getting the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts built — now called Arts Commons — in which the Martha Cohen Theatre bears her name.

"Martha was a true community visionary and dedicated so much of her life to making Calgary an exceptional place for everyone," said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in a statement. "Her passion for the arts led to development of one of the most treasured spaces in the city."

Alberta Theatre Projects honoured Cohen by dimming the lights during its Thursday performance of The Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst.

"She was one of the fierce visionaries who brought a performing arts centre into being in the heart of Calgary," said artistic director Vanessa Porteous.

Cohen was in her 90s.