Remembering David Sobey, 1931–2023

- September 21, 2023

David Sobey made an impact on the business community, higher education and charitable causes in Atlantic Canada. (Provided photo)
David Sobey made an impact on the business community, higher education and charitable causes in Atlantic Canada. (Provided photo)

Dalhousie is saddened by the loss of business titan and friend David Frank Sobey (LLD’16), C.M., who has died at age 92.

As leader for many decades of the Sobey group of businesses, David had an enormous influence on the business community, higher education and charitable causes in Atlantic Canada.

Born in Stellarton, N.S, David was introduced to the grocery business at an early age. He honed his skills and knowledge working virtually every job there was in the family's ever-expanding business. He served as vice chairman & CEO from 1982 to 1986, chairman & CEO from 1986 to 1995, and chairman from 1995 to 2001. When he retired in 2001, he was appointed chair emeritus by the Sobeys Inc. Board of Directors. He retired from the Empire Board of Directors in 2015.

David studied business at Dalhousie, where he met Faye (Naugle) Sobey (BSc’53). Faye was a biochemistry student and one of only 14 females among 55 students who graduated from the Faculty of Science in 1953. The couple married that same year.

In 2013, David and Faye Sobey provided a $1 million-gift to Dalhousie that was used to create the Faye Sobey Student Undergraduate Research Endowment. It funds up to 10 additional research positions for undergraduate science students each summer, providing grants of about $5,000 to students in disciplines across the Faculty of Science.

David and Faye Sobey also gave generously to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, including a $2 million gift that was used to establish the Irene MacDonald Sobey Endowed Chair in Curative Approaches to Alzheimer's disease.

“I’ve never been happier to support the work of this university than I am with today’s announcement,” said David Sobey, speaking at Dalhousie in 2013, when the Irene MacDonald Sobey Endowed Chair was announced. “Battles are being waged on many fronts in the fight against disease, but this one is personal for the Sobey family,” he added, explaining that his mother, for whom the chair is named, suffered from Alzheimer’s.

A recognized leader

Dalhousie awarded David Sobey an honorary doctorate in 2016, citing his business leadership, philanthropy and community projects in its commendation.

David held honorary degrees from Saint Mary’s, Mount Allison, St. Francis Xavier and Cape Breton universities. In 1996, he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada and in 2007, he was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame, joining his father, Frank H. Sobey.

A former chancellor of Saint Mary’s University, Mr. Sobey received the Friend of Education Award, presented by the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education, in 1999.

"David was a great grocer, a great retailer and a great businessman who was instrumental in guiding the phenomenal growth of Sobeys from a regional grocery chain, built by his father, into a national food retailing and distribution business that today serves millions of Canadians on a weekly basis," said Jim Dickson, chair, Empire Company Limited in the company’s official announcement made Wednesday. "David was unfailingly generous with his time, energy and personal resources and never stopped advocating for the growth and development of Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia and Pictou County."

The Dalhousie community extends condolences to David’s family including his wife Faye, children and grandchildren.


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