John W. Dobson 1928-2013
John Dobson was born in Montreal, the son of a banker who rose through the ranks to become President of the Royal Bank. While John was of Nova Scotia parentage (his father from Sydney and his mother from Truro), he grew up in Montreal and graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1949. He received his Master's of Business of Administration from Harvard in 1952.
John began his formal work career, after graduation, with Dominion Engineering, and then the Montreal investment firm of C.J. Hodgson. This prepared him to venture on his own in 1960 when he founded the Formula Growth Fund, one of Canada’s earliest mutual funds and the most successful long-term mutual fund in Canadian history.
John applied his extensive management skills and business acumen in a variety of voluntary positions. He was a member of the Fraser Institute Board of Trustees, the International Advisory Board of the McGill School of Management, and the Audit and Finance Committee of McGill University. He was an Advisor to the National Citizens' Coalition.
John began teaching the business case method in the late 1950s in a program sponsored by the Montreal Board of Trade along with a number of Harvard alumni and other Montreal executives. This program eventually found a home at McGill in what is known as the Executive Development Institute.
While studying for his MBA, John attended the small business class at Harvard University. It was from that early exposure and his teaching experience that he developed the vision of university involvement in entrepreneurial studies and community entrepreneurial outreach as an effective stimulant to economic development and employment generation. He believed that the Harvard model, which now has 22 professors of entrepreneurship, should be more prevalent in Canada.
In 1986, John established The John Dobson Foundation to “help educate the public with respect to the free enterprise system and entrepreneurial activities in Canada.” This foundation has supported many and varied community entrepreneurial efforts including The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, The Youth Employment Services Foundation of Montreal (which supports in excess 2100 marginalized youth annually), and Junior Achievement. He was the original sponsor of the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs, a national student body that advocates entrepreneurial education. He was also a supporter of five major Canadian economic “Think Tanks.”
The first and flagship activity of the Foundation was the creation of the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at McGill University in 1989. The Foundation has created the McGill Entrepreneurial Skill Development Program and today there are 13 sections of entrepreneurial studies in programs in Business, MBA, Engineering and Science.
The John Dobson Foundation currently supports entrepreneurial development at 16 Canadian universities. In addition to the enhancement of entrepreneurial education at specific institutions, John’s involvement has resulted in the establishment of regional and national networks of educators and small business interveners, creating unprecedented synergy and cooperation.
He was awarded an honorary Doctorate from McGill in 1996 and another from Concordia in 2002. He was awarded McGill’s Management Achievement Award in 1992, and in 1997 John was named to the Order of Canada.
While his commitment to community, education and entrepreneurship was evident, it is golf that was his passion. At 74 he enjoyed a 16 handicap, played regularly all year and was a Golf Digest course rater for Canadian and U.S. golf courses. Earlier he served as a member of the executive committee and Director of both the Quebec Golf Association and the Royal Canadian Golf Association, and as an honorary Director of the Quebec Golf Professionals. He played 587 golf courses worldwide.