Businessman and philanthropist Gregory Belton has received a slew of prestigious acknowledgments and mixed with the likes of global leaders and Royals, yet he still carries with him values learned from his years at Jesuit-established Brebeuf College.
“Jesuits are known for placing a strong emphasis on equality and social justice,” says Belton, who graduated from the school in 1976 when Jesuits were still administrators and educators at the celebrated Toronto boy’s school.
The executive chairman of HUB International Ontario, a global insurance brokerage and Canada’s largest property insurance brokerage firm, Belton is an insurance industry leader who has combined business success with social conscience.
“Throughout my adult life I have been deeply involved in the charitable sector, with an emphasis on organizations who help the poor, hungry and marginalized,” says Belton.
Belton’s charitable work has led to much recognition. He has received numerous national and international awards and recognitions including Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals for his contributions to public life, Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth ll, for those who have provided personal service to the Monarch, the Royal family and the Commonwealth, and in 2016 he was made a member of the Order of Canada. In 2006, he was made a Knight of the Papal Order, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and he became a Knight Commander in 2011. A member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, he received their YPO Legacy Award (2003) which is granted to members who have overcome great obstacles to achieve success, accomplished something extraordinary in their lives, and/or inspired others. He followed Prince Philip as Chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, based in the UK and operating in 140 countries. Belton held the position for 10 years and was replaced by Prince Edward in 2017. His 30-year friendship with the late Prince Philip extends to his son Edward today.
Even with his international work, Belton has also been a generous benefactor of the Jesuits in Canada, supporting several events promoting the work of the Jesuits. He has very fond memories of Jesuits from his Brebeuf years, priests like Fathers Topping, Beaudois, and Rye, who was very comforting to his family when Belton’s mother passed away in 1998 and when his father died ten years later.
“My Catholic faith has helped me deal with tragedy and loss,” says Belton, who attends Mass regularly – and says, “It’s a time each week when I can reflect on how I am doing as a husband, father and member of the broader community, all in the context of the teachings of the Church.”
Jesuit values that appeal to Belton also include cura personalis or care for and development of the whole person. Belton refers to it as helping the individual reach their fullest potential. He even wrote a book about his life up to age 60 and reaching his full potential, entitled An Unexpected Life. The title comes from exceeding expectations that he and others may have had for him at an early age. He feels he has done the unexpected in his personal life, career and in leadership roles in many philanthropic organizations in Canada, the UK, and US.
Another value taught by the Jesuits that appeals to Belton is the belief in discernment and questioning everything. “I don’t simply accept what others espouse,” he says.
The Toronto-born father of three comes from a family that was very active in their Catholic faith. Belton’s late parents were active in their Catholic community, serving on the executive of the Parents Guild of St. Joseph’s Morrow Park and the Parents Foundation of Brebeuf College School among other roles. His late mother was a member of the Brebeuf College School Ladies’ Guild, and was a fundraiser for Providence Centre, while his father was chairman of Catholic Family Services and Chairman of the Finance Committee on the Board of Providence Healthcare, among other voluntary roles.
In a 2019 convocation speech, when receiving his honorary doctor of laws degree from York University’s Glendon College, (his alma mater), Belton told graduands: “I learned the most about myself during challenging times; this was also when I began to develop empathy for others whose lives were far more challenging and uncertain than mine,” says Belton. “There is no doubt in my mind that this led to my life of charitable work.”