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Investing in people: Desautels grad opens doors for MBA students

The fellowship that Bob and Linda Goldberger created for McGill MBA students has more than tripled its annual distribution since it was first awarded in 2011/2012, thanks to their ongoing generosity – and the power of compound growth. 

Bob Goldberger and students at McGill University

Bob Goldberger with award recipients, including Justine Nadeau-Routhier second from left.

As an investment advisor and trained accountant, Bob Goldberger is intimately acquainted with the ‘magic of compounding” when you put money to work, let it grow, and keep adding to it. 

Compound growth also works its magic in charitable giving. 

“Everyone knows what compounding means,” says Goldberger, MBA’82, “but when you see an endowment fund that you started with zero dollars and it becomes a distribution of $25,000 per year, it’s growth upon growth. It’s building all the time and it’s forever, that’s the beauty of an endowment.”

He and his wife Linda Goldberger, BSW’78, have set up endowments in the health and education sectors, including at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management where Goldberger earned his MBA.

They established the Linda and Robert J. Goldberger MBA Fellowship in 2009 to support students entering McGill’s MBA program. In doing so, they became one of the first donors to create a permanent MBA fellowship in the faculty. 

Occasionally recipients will ask me: ‘Why did you create this fellowship?’ The answer is simple. My wife and I believe in these extraordinary young men and women and want to invest in their future.”

Initially awarded in the 2011-12 academic year, the fellowship was established to distribute $7,500 per year to one recipient. Thanks to the Goldbergers’ ongoing generosity and tenacity – Bob was determined to get the annual award to $20,000 – it has more than tripled in size and is now a $22,000 per year student award. It will become $25,000 for one recipient for the 2023-24 academic year.

“The reason that we do what we do, it’s for who we call our McGill kids, who are all extraordinary university graduates in need of financial support,” says Goldberger, who hopes to inspire others to give. 

“Forty years after receiving my McGill MBA, I look back and think how did we get here? And it’s not like we performed a miracle along the way.  We chose a path and stayed with it,” he says, allowing time to see the full effect of compounding.

Goldberger has always been a fan of matching funds, whereby some employers match employees’ charitable donations up to a certain amount. It’s an option that he has been able to avail himself of to build up a few of the couple’s endowments. 

“We were very fortunate that a large Montreal charitable foundation matched our initial pledge to establish this endowment. Along the way a former employer matched our annual donations to McGill for a number of years.  When you combine that with our making consistent annual donations, you arrive at a place that you never thought possible.”

Goldberger went to John Abbott CEGEP on the west island of Montreal. A scholarship enabled him to attend Bishop’s University where he was a student athlete. When the 20th anniversary of his graduation rolled around, he felt he should help students as a stranger had once supported his studies. He has created an endowment at Bishop’s that provides awards to a number of student athletes every year. He volunteers as Chair of that university’s foundation. He is also helping McGill MBA students – 11 and counting over the years – like recent graduate Justine Nadeau-Routhier, MBA’22.

Nadeau-Routhier, who has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, had been planning for several years to obtain an MBA and was surprised – and thrilled – to learn she had won the large fellowship. “It was such an honour to have been selected to receive the Linda and Robert J. Goldberger MBA Fellowship,” she says. “I was also happy to be able to enter the McGill network. It allowed me to go to the university of my choice.” 

The generous scholarship enabled her to take an educational leave from her job as a management consultant at IBM to study full-time for her MBA. “I did the accelerated mode and completed the program in 12 months…The scholarship allowed me to achieve that – to really concentrate 100 per cent on the development of new competencies,” she says.

Nadeau-Routhier enjoyed her MBA experience in the Desautels Faculty of Management, including two experiential learning opportunities: taking part in L'Oréal Brandstorm, an international innovation case competition (her team reached the national finals), and a study trip to Copenhagen, Berlin and Amsterdam for an up-close look at how businesses operate in Europe.

She now works in a more strategic role at IBM, which has allowed her to “really put into action the new competencies in a new context in my career,” she says. 

After Goldberger obtained his MBA at McGill, he moved to Toronto, received his Certified Management Accountant designation, and worked at a data processing company and then in real estate merchant banking. “I kept having this nagging feeling that I wanted to work closely with people – on their behalf and for them,” he says.

“I thought I was capable of helping people make good financial decisions…and to be able to add value to their life,” says Goldberger, who became an investment advisor in the early 1990s and now has more than 30 years experience in the field.

For Goldberger, philanthropy is investing in people. “Occasionally recipients will ask me: ‘Why did you create this fellowship?’ The answer is simple. My wife and I believe in these extraordinary young men and women and want to invest in their future.”

“There’s lots of talent out there, but not always a lot of opportunity,” Goldberger adds, drawing an analogy with aspiring singers who get a chance to perform on American Idol or The Voice.  They won’t all become a break-out star like Kelly Clarkson “but it will elevate the trajectory of their future dramatically.

“Philanthropy should be there to offer those who don’t have an equal opportunity a chance to become their highest and best self.”