Joseph Rotman began with a rather modest gift, sending in a $50 check to his alma mater, the University of Toronto’s business school, back in the 1980s. The highly successful Canadian entrepreneur added a number of zeros to his next notable donation: Some $3 million in 1993 for the school’s first new building.
Then, four years later in 1997, Rotman gave a $15 million naming gift for what became the Rotman School of Management. And there also was the $18 million he contributed in 2007 to fund the creation of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the school, to help pay for a new modern building which now houses the B-school, and the naming of the undergraduate program.
Though Rotman died in January of 2015 at the age of 80 after heart surgery, he keeps on giving. The University of Toronto’s Rotman School today (April 6) announced that his estate has given the school a landmark $30 million gift, the largest single donation ever received by the school, to create an unusual venture fund that will support a new round of innovative courses and programs at the business school.
ONLY 13 OTHER BUSINESS SCHOOL BENEFACTORS HAVE GIVEN MORE THAN ROTMAN
The Rotman donation is not the largest single gift to a Canadian business school. That honor went to Stephen Smith who only last year gave a $50 million naming gift to Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business (see One-On-One Video With Smith’s Associate Dean Elspeth Murray). But when Rotman’s previous giving is added to the total to the school that bears his name, his generosity now exceeds $66 million. That puts Rotman among the top 15 biggest donors to business schools in the world. Only 13 other benefactors have given more money to a business school than Rotman, and all of the other gifts went to U.S. schools (see table on next page).
Described as something of a Renassiance Man who combined a wide-ranging business career with a passion for collecting modern art, dancing the tango and having a fascination for how the brain works, the late Joseph Rotman was also extremely generous to the business school that bears his name. Rotman’s new $30 million gift, moreover, will be matched by the University of Toronto in order to establish a $45 million Fund as well as provide additional support for scholarships, faculty positions and infrastructure investments. Rotman’s latest gift, however, will mainly underwrite what the school is calling a “Rotman Catalyst Fund” to fund new, impactful ideas.
The notion of forming a venture fund for innovation came out of conversations between Dean Tiff Macklem and Rotman shortly before his death. “I really cherish those brainstroming sessions we had,” says Macklem, the former senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada before becoming dean in July of 2014. “He was excited about the ideas for the future of the school and excited about the vision for the next leap forward. The idea of creating a Catalyst Fund was conceived by joe and the leadership of the school shortly before he died. The negotiations since then have been very true to his concept for the fund.”