by Sonya Jampolsky

When alum Douglas C. Mackay (BComm’53, LLD’93) was awarded his honorary degree from Dal and giving the convocation address in October of 1993, he began by expressing gratitude for his parents, his wife and the education he received at Dalhousie University. For another 30 years, Mackay continued to show his appreciation with a significant contribution of time, money and respect, particularly for the Faculty of Management. Mackay passed away March 1, 2023. Starting on March 27, campus flags are being lowered to half-mast in his honour.

During that same speech in 1993, Mackay also told the students to think globally in their careers, while investing in themselves. He told them to “get as much education and learn as many skills as you can. And never stop learning.”

Connecting to fantastic speakers

A senior partner of the Toronto firm, Pitfield Mackay and Ross, Mackay’s company merged with Dominion Securities in 1984, to create the largest brokerage firm in Canada. Mackay, as vice chair and head of equity capital markets, was instrumental in orchestrating the company’s initial public offering in 1988, and its subsequent acquisition by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

When Mackay retired in 1989, he was not just an undisputed leader, he was universally respected in the Canadian securities industry.

Greg Hebb, the current holder of the Douglas C. Mackay Chair in Finance, knows how valuable Mackay’s allegiance has been to the Faculty of Management. “He was a lot more than the cheques that he wrote,” Hebb says. One of his many gifts according to Hebb, was connecting the faculty with fantastic speakers, such as arranging for the CEO of RBC to speak. Hebb describes him as “Proactive, but not restrictive. He always said, do what’s best.”

Brian Collins, managing director in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at RBC, remembers being handed a copy of Mackay’s 1993 convocation address when he arrived at RBC as a co-op student in 1995. One of his colleagues told him, “You should read this. You might learn something.”

Collins, who later received one of the many Douglas C. Mackay scholarships and awards provided to Dalhousie students over the years, says Mackay was always sharing what he had learned.

He explains how Mackay was “a voracious consumer of information about markets, geopolitics and seemingly everything else,” adding Mackay collated material he’d read to share with colleagues and clients. Collins says, “Every morning I would read Doug’s curated list of what he thought was important before reading the Globe and Mail or anything else.”

‘Dalhousie was his heart and his passion’

Iraj Fooladi, who held the Douglas C. Mackay Chair in Finance from 1997 until 2022, formed a close friendship with Mackay over the years. He says his impact on the Faculty of Management cannot be overstated.

Mackay contributed significantly to the faculty’s new home, which opened in 2005, with his own money and by leveraging his wide network of contacts to secure other donations. He bought computers for the Dr. Douglas C. Mackay finance lab which prepares students for working life. His endowment pays for the Chair in his name, and the board room in the Dean’s office.

“Honestly, he has supported us financially, and that’s extremely valuable. But what is more valuable to me is that he gave us his trust. He trusted us,” says Fooladi, adding “Dalhousie was his heart and his passion, it was a love relationship.”

Pictured above, Iraj Fooladi with the 2022 recipients of the Douglas C. Mackay Award for Money Management.

Philanthropy is a duty

In the foreward of the book published in 2015 honouring Mackay’s contributions to Dalhousie, Fooladi writes he first met him in 1995 when the faculty’s existence was being threatened. Fooladi says his genuine concern and support was both touching and instrumental in moving the faculty forward.

The foreward says, “Doug has never ceased to inspire me and my students,” later adding, “It’s his belief that philanthropy is not a choice, but a duty to be performed by Canadian business leaders.”

Fooladi and Collins believe Mackay’s philosophy on giving has influenced others and created a legacy. Collins’s pandemic project has been to organize his BComm’97 graduating class to raise money for a full-tuition scholarship endowment in recognition of their 25th reunion.

Modest and unpretentious, he learned from everyone around him

Since news of Mackay’s death has become public, there’s a description of him which is being echoed by many.

Collins says it like this: “I think he was a kind of person who never forgot where he came from. He described himself as a simple Maritime-born businessman living in Upper Canada. He was very modest, he never thought he was the smartest person in the room, and he was always eager to learn from other people, including people much younger than himself.”

The message Mackay wanted to leave behind was best said by him, in the closing remarks of his 1993 convocation address.

“Be good to your university, give generously of your personal time and financial support. Believe in yourself and your work.”

Mackay is pictured top row, far right in this photo from the 1949 Dalhousie yearbook. He was the team’s captain that year.