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Dobson Foundation donates $2-million to McGill to fuel entrepreneurship

John Dobson, the revered money manager and philanthropist who died in 2013, preferred to invest in people rather than buildings, according to those who run the foundation that bears his name.

“He was a humble man who had no interest in having his name on a building,” says Randy Kelly, chairman of the John Dobson Foundation and chief executive officer of Formula Growth Ltd., one of Canada’s oldest investment management firms, founded by Mr. Dobson in 1960.

“If you put it [a name] on a building, it is more akin to an honorary degree,” says Mr. Kelly. “He [Mr. Dobson] understood why people liked it but it was something that didn’t turn his crank.”

In keeping with Mr. Dobson’s philosophy, the foundation on Tuesday pledged $2-million over 10 years to McGill University in Montreal to enable entrepreneurs on campus to focus on taking their late-stage startups to the next level of investor and market interest.

The donation, the foundation’s largest gift to his alma mater to date, would provide $5,000 stipends for young entrepreneurs selected for the McGill X-1 Accelerator, a 10-week summer program established in 2015 through the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. Currently, eight teams (of three to five members) participate in the accelerator program (named for the aircraft that broke the sound barrier in 1947), with budding entrepreneurs working on diverse ideas, such as processes to detect concussions or heal bones faster than at present.

The donation also includes financial support for student interns who work with the accelerator participants, according to Mr. Kelly, along with annual funds for selected accelerator teams to travel to Toronto, Boston, New York and San Francisco, for example, to pitch their product to potential investors.

“Like in his investment career, John Dobson liked to jump-start things and shepherd them for a while to make them come to fruition,” says Mr. Kelly. “His attitude was if it was successful it could stand…

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