Lifelong lessons about generosity

Roger Dootson’s parents were generous people. As farmers near Irma, Alberta, the Dootson family had little material wealth. But what his parents did have was a generous spirit.

They were willing volunteers for community projects— and knowing all too well how difficult times could get — they were always aware of families in need.

“It was different kind of giving,” explains Dootson (Carpenter ’77), recalling how his mother would give small amounts of money, food or baked goods to recent immigrants. And, his father, for example, didn’t hesitate to give his neighbour a set of wrenches after his shop burned down.

“You’re conscious at a young age of the need to be generous." 

“You’re conscious at a young age of the need to be generous; then it leaves you as a parent. You get busy. But, as you grow professionally, you realize that you may not be giving enough — or perhaps not at all,” explains the retired vice-president of PCL Construction, a company highly regarded for its practice of giving back in the communities it serves.

Working for a community leader

After completing his apprenticeship, Dootson worked at Forest Construction Ltd. PCL bought the company in 1998. It was an exciting time: a year later the company handed over the keys to the 950,000-square-foot STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

It didn’t take long for PCL to become one of Canada’s leading construction companies.

Dootson was not only thrilled to work on signature projects, he relished being at a company that valued its employees, who had a real stake in the success of the company. (The company is owned by employee shareholders.)

It was also a company with a strong community investment policy, a practice that continues today. The past leadership team, which included John Poole and Bob Stollery, set high standards as philanthropists and their successors shared their commitment to giving back to charities.

Gradually, Dootson took a more active interest in philanthropy. “The company’s matching program gave you the best bang for your buck,” he says, recalling how the program doubled the impact of employees’ gifts.

Bursaries a real priority

In 2010, prior to his retirement, Dootson and his wife, Joan, and their two children created the Roger Dootson Charitable Foundation. Providing bursaries to NAIT students was one of the foundation’s first priorities.

“I do remember as a young apprentice how hard it was to support yourself during the apprenticeship years.”

But it’s more than just helping to ease financial hardships for students today, he explains. “I have fond memories of NAIT,” says Dootson. During his working years, he was actively involved in the apprenticeship and industry training board and provided counsel to educational leaders on curricula.

“I admire the current leadership of NAIT, I like the programs, and I certainly like the polytechnic aspects of its educational programming,” says Dootson, who like many donors supported the construction of the Centre for Applied Technology.

Dootson says the foundation will continue to donate to support student bursaries at NAIT. One of the benefits of doing so, he points out, is receiving letters from students who receive support from the foundation.

Says one grateful recipient: “I hope that in the future I could have a chance to help others, as you have helped me.”

Published on March 20, 2018.