Donald K. Johnson
C.M., B.Sc.(E.E.)(Man.); M.B.A.(W.Ont.)
Donald Johnson was born June 18, 1935 in Lundar, Manitoba, where he completed high school. He obtained a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Manitoba in 1957. Mr. Johnson also received an MBA from the University of Western Ontario in 1963. While his career took him to Toronto, he has never forgotten his roots in Manitoba nor his alma mater.
Although Mr. Johnson's initial career was in electrical engineering, his greatest career successes were in the investment industry. After obtaining his MBA in 1963, he joined Burns Bros. & Denton Ltd., a predecessor firm of BMO Nesbitt Burns. During his 42-year career with the company, he held a series of management positions in institutional equity, sales, trading research, and international, retail and investment management. Mr. Johnson was President of Burns Fry from 1984 to 1989 and from 1989 to 2004 he was Vice-Chairman, Investment Banking, for BMO Nesbitt Burns and predecessor companies. His prime focus was providing advice to major Canadian and international companies on mergers and acquisitions and equity and debt financing. He was a Governor of the Toronto Stock Exchange from 1978 to 1980, and Chairman of the Investment Dealers Association in 1988-89. Current managers at BMO Nesbitt Burns refer to Mr. Johnson as a "legend". Mr. Johnson is currently Chairman of Easyhome Ltd. and a director of Manicouagan Minerals.
Along with his outstanding success in business, Mr. Johnson has been an active volunteer for many education, arts, and health care organizations. It has been said that Don understands that there is no shame in seeking assistance for needy organizations and while developing an extremely successful business career, he has never forgotten about the importance of giving back to one's community.
Mr. Johnson serves on the advisory board of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, where he has been a James C. Taylor Distinguished Lecturer. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation, and Chairman of the Vision Campaign for the Toronto Western Hospital. He is also Chairman Emeritus and Director of the Council for Business and Arts in Canada, a Trustee of the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, a Member of the 2008 Major Individual Giving Cabinet of the United Way of Toronto and a member of the Ontario Committee for the I.H. Asper School of Business. He served as a Director of the Canadian Club of Toronto, as a Board Member of the National Ballet of Canada and the Bishop Strachan School Foundation. He was a member of the Campaign Cabinet of the Canadian Opera House Corporation and in 1994-96 he chaired a successful campaign for the National Ballet to build a new facility.
In addition to giving his time and expertise, Mr. Johnson has financially supported many worthwhile initiatives, including the Pauline Johnson Library in Lundar, Manitoba, and the Fjola Johnson Memorial Scholarship at the Lundar High School. At the University of Manitoba in the Faculty of Engineering, Mr. Johnson created a fund to support students who take on leadership roles in student government, and provided support for the facilities for the University of Manitoba Engineering Society. The Donald K. Johnson Student Centre has been named in his honour.
However, Mr. Johnson's greatest contribution to the charitable sector in Canada is his leadership role on its behalf in lobbying the federal government to remove tax barriers on gifts of publicly listed securities to registered charities. The federal government has now completely eliminated the capital gains tax on gifts of listed securities. This change has resulted in an explosive increase in gifts of shares to not-for-profit organizations, including universities.
In recognition for his many achievements in business and his countless contributions to the charitable sector in Canada, Mr. Johnson was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2005. He was the recipient of the 2007 Edmund C. Bovey Award for Leadership Support of the Arts and was selected by the Globe & Mail as National Builder of the Year in 2007. The personal, community, and business achievements of Mr. Donald K. Johnson make him a most deserving recipient of our recognition with an honorary degree.
-citation delivered by mentor, Dr. Douglas Ruth, Dean, Faculty of Engineering