Remembering David with the gift of educationDavid Jacob Reiss excelled at everything he put his mind to. Whether it was serving as Director of Administration at Camp Kadimah as a teenager or attending Western University as a student in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies, he committed to hard work from a young age. Later, grown up and holding a BA from Western, he went on to work in real estate and development in Toronto with his father Sam, he owned his own online brokerage company, and eventually focused his talents on marketing for Goldhar & Associates Ltd., Licensed Insolvency Trustee.
David could be counted on. His love for his family and friends was limitless. His mother, Ellen Kline, recalls that her son David considered friends and family to be the most important thing in his life, and he was willing to lend an open hand to anyone in need.
“He valued honesty, loyalty and friendship. He constantly gave and expected nothing in return. David was most humble, never taking credit where credit was due. He was just happy to help when he could. If he could make life easier for someone, he would always be the first to lend a helping hand,” she recounts.
Close friend Richard Goldhar, who first met David at Camp Kadimah in Nova Scotia, describes the same sense of caring and a desire to help others that was part of David’s core identity. He remembers David as a kind-hearted, humble, honest and loyal friend.
“He was the shoulder you could lean on. He was the guy that you could always count on for everything.”
When David passed away suddenly on September 1, 2019, in Toronto, he left a hole in the lives of all those he had touched. His family and friends struggled to process what they had lost along with him: his capacity for empathy and compassion, his innate talent for technology and digital communications, his insatiable curiosity, and his positive approach to life.
David had been hard at work serving as the marketing guru for Richard’s firm at the time of his passing. Valued greatly for his business acumen, Richard, his wife Jennifer, and their three children Jack, Samuel, and Benjamin also considered “Uncle Dave” a part of their family.
David’s sister, Sarah Warren, remembers her brother’s commitment to the people he loved. He made time to spend with everyone - his mother and father, Sarah and her three young children, and his 94-year-old grandmother, with whom he was extremely close. Sarah and David supported each other and had a strong sibling bond. He was a dedicated uncle, babysitting often and taking the kids on outings to hockey or the movies. He loved his dogs, enjoyed riding horses, and was the family handyman.
“David had a pure and gentle heart,” says Sarah.
His big heart was often on display. Richard recalls an incident from April 2018, when he had been busily planning for his son Benjamin’s Bris. The celebration included a guest list of about 200 people, but the night before, a severe ice storm struck Toronto making travel hazardous. While the television news was advising people to stay at home, David was not deterred. The morning of the celebration, he was the first to arrive at the venue, ready to help with last minute preparations.
When David arrived at Western as a first-year student in 2003, he set his sights on completing an undergraduate degree, beginning initially at Huron College but soon transferring into the Media, Information & Technoculture (MIT) program in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies (FIMS).
Kathie Hess, FIMS academic counsellor, worked with David to make the transition into FIMS. She remembers him sharing with her how much he was enjoying his MIT classes and that he was excited to become a full-time FIMS student.
“I remember David as very friendly, always smiling, happy and positive. He was also very kind. He offered gratitude for any and all help along the way,” says Kathie, adding that he had a knack for finding creative ways to ensure he got a spot in the courses he was most interested in.
David’s mother Ellen also recalls David having a positive experience at university, describing him as “well suited” to study Media, Information & Technoculture at FIMS.
“He enjoyed his experience at Western. David never missed a class as he decided that is how he learned best,” says Ellen, adding that he graduated with Honours. David hinted to his mother that he was not a big fan of the fast-food options available to him on campus, but never one to just sit back, he began making his own homemade dinners and cookies, sending her photos of his creations.
After David graduated in 2007, he framed his Western degree and hung it on the wall right next to his bed in his apartment. Noticing this on his frequent visits to his friend’s home, Richard understood that David took pride in having completed his degree. When the Goldhar family was searching for ways to honour David’s legacy, education seemed an obvious choice.
“He was always a very proud Western alumnus,” says Richard.
School mattered to David, and he worked hard at it. Richard believes that David’s education in the MIT program prepared him to excel in media and technology-related jobs, like the one he was working at in 2019.
“He did an incredible job. He was a marketing genius,” recalls Richard, adding that David was a part of the firm’s senior leadership team. He was very well-liked by his co-workers, and people sought him out for counsel.
“He was ‘the guy’ whom everyone confided in at the office.”
Given David’s connection to Western and his desire to give back and to help others, establishing a student scholarship in his name struck the Goldhar family as a poignant way of remembering David. They felt it would be fitting for David to continue to help other students learn and grow, as he had done.
The fact that the funding for the award is tied to Richard’s firm is also significant, in that David believed with his success in business, he had a greater responsibility to give back to his community. Humble as he was, having an award in his name might have made him self-conscious. But helping students in financial need achieve their educational goals is something he would have gotten behind.
“It was a tragedy that we lost a good person - a great person - at such a young age,” says Richard. “My wife and I, along with our children, felt that it was important to create a memorial gift that would live the name of David Jacob Reiss indefinitely.”
The David Reiss Scholarship will be awarded annually to a full-time undergraduate student in any year of a Major or Honours Specialization program in MIT, based on demonstrated financial need and a minimum 70% average. The scholarship will be awarded to a student for the first time in Fall 2020.