Rotman Gets $30 Million Gift For Big Ideas

Tiff Macklem, dean of the Rotman School of Management

Tiff Macklem, dean of the Rotman School of Management


None of the $30 million will go into endowment nor will any of it go toward the school’s current operating expenses. “Joe was very purposeful and very deliberate in everything he did and you can see that in the design of this gift,” adds Macklem. “The gift is not locked down but meant to be spent on specific initiatives. Think of it as a venture fund for the school. Together with the gift, there is a governance structure, with a competition for ideas. The ideas with the biggest impact will be those that get funded. These could be new courses aligned with the school’s priorities or new hubs or labs to bring in new experiential learning and research.”

The school says the fund will largely support initiatives in the school’s three areas of academic emphasis: entrepreneurship and innovation, a global mindset, and leadership in financial management and good governance. “It is to seed new ideas and initiatives,” says Macklem. “It is desinged to be spent and not to fund the core operations of the school. It is designed to create new things.”

Rotman, who received a master’s in commerce from the school in 1960, had established a close relationship with Macklem’s predecessor, Dean Roger Martin who had brought in Rotman’s previous gifts and used them to help transform the school from a small regional player in Canada to a first-class institution with greater scale and heft.


As Martin’s successor, Macklem picked up on the relationship to make sure that Rotman remained deeply engaged with the school that bears his name. Rotman’s widow, Sandy Rotman, is also involved with the business school and the university. Not long after Rotman’s death on Jan. 27th of 2015, Macklem says he was told by the executors of the philanthropist’s estate that “Joe had made some provision in his estate for the school and I was invited to make a proposal in line with the conversations we had with Joe.”

In common with other business school benefactors, Rotman hoped to use some of his money to benefit society. “Joe was a great believer in the need to build successful businesses to generate prosperity,” recalls Macklem. “He believed that was an essential element to create a prosperpous and successful society. He also believed that people who were fortunate enough to achieve financial success had a responsibility to help make that happen. And he was a great believer in helping Canada compete on a global scale. He really wanted to raise the asperations of business leaders in Canada.

The university said this latest gift from makes the Rotman family the most generous benefactors in the University’s history, with total giving of more than $71 million.

After earning his master’s from Toronto, Rotman began working on a doctorate at Columbia University in New York. He never completed the degree, instead leaving to New York to return to Canada and set up an oil trading business in the 1960s. Rotman began to invest in Alberta’s oil sector as it emerged as a growing industry, ultimately founded Clairvest Group Inc. in 1987, a firm that provided financing for new companies. During his business career, Rotman was involved throughout in numerous companies in sectors such as oil trading, petroleum distribution, and oil and gas exploration.

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