Ian Telfer almost was never admitted at the University of Ottawa, but in perhaps the best decision admissions officials ever made, they called a young Ian Telfer back to offer him a last-minute spot in the school’s MBA program after initially turning down his application.
“I had applied to every MBA program in the country and I was very lucky that they decided to give me a chance to get my foot in the door,” says Telfer, now the chairman of the board of Goldcorp. “I owe the University a lot for that opportunity, which in turn opened a lot of opportunities for me.”
Thirty-six years later, the school that now bears his name is celebrating the five-year anniversary of Telfer’s generous $25 million gift to the University—the largest in uOttawa history and to any Canadian business school.
“It’s one of the few exceptions in the history of investments I’ve made, in the sense that usually I do a lot of research about what I’m investing in and how my money is going to be used,” says Telfer. “But in this case, I had so much confidence in the University and the school’s leadership that I honestly didn’t really have to.”
Telfer’s trust has paid dividends in spades: Telfer students have dominated Canadian business competitions like the Jeux du commerce, and the School has attracted world-class teaching and research talent, which has the cascading effect of attracting world-class students.
“For me, the best part of this gift has been re-engaging with the University. I find it extremely energizing when I meet with former and current students and get their impressions of how they see the world and what they’re looking forward to,” says Telfer. “It’s also immensely rewarding to connect with academia. Working in business, there are limited opportunities for conversing with deans, administrators and professors in the field, so that has been an unexpected, enjoyable part of the experience.”
As far as advice for budding entrepreneurs graduating from the School, Telfer suggests to stick to what you know.
“Once you start second-guessing your decisions, your confidence can suffer,” he says. “If that happens, focus on what you know best and what you feel you can make good decisions about.”
Telfer students, professors, alumni and distinguished guests will gather at the Chateau Laurier this Saturday, May 12, to mark the fifth anniversary of Telfer’s good decision to support the School he got to know so well first as a student and then as one Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs.