Michael F.B. Nesbitt
B.Comm., B.A. (Man.)
A businessman, philanthropist and patron of the arts, Mr. Michael Nesbitt grew up with an understanding that education opens doors. Eager to learn, he wasted no time and by 21 had completed two degrees at the University of Manitoba - in commerce and arts.
Following graduation, he headed to Toronto to work on Bay Street for the TD Bank and soon started a family, doing so on the advice of his dad who encouraged his son to: ‘Go explore, and come back only when you’ve got some life experience’.
When Mr. Nesbitt returned in 1965, he took the helm of his father’s mortgage company. He grew Montrose Mortgage Corporation into one of the largest privately owned mortgage banking and servicing companies in the country. Today, the firm manages $2 billion in loans from coast to coast.
As its Chairman and President, Mr. Nesbitt is known for leading by example. He believes that if you are ethical and hard-working, that is the type of employee whom you will attract, and hiring good people is key. It is equally important to get out of their way and let them shine.
With five decades of experience, Mr. Nesbitt has been a beloved mentor to many, always mindful to teach in a manner that he would want to be taught. When colleagues speak about him, they use words like: integrity, inspiring and humble.
Few know the depth of Mr. Nesbitt’s philanthropic contributions in the home province he treasures. Out of the spotlight, he has been building a better community by taking steps to: send more kids to Camp Stephens, attract more graduate students to Manitoba, and ensure Indigenous students have access to university. When Mr. Nesbitt sees a need, he finds a solution: in the mid-60s he helped found the first Montessori School in the province, and in 1977 he supported Winnipeg’s first public, co-ed squash courts.
Mr. Nesbitt has also shaped the creative landscape in Manitoba. Local organizations, including the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, the Graffiti Gallery, the Manitoba Opera, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, know well the impact of his generosity.
Mr. Nesbitt’s drive to make a difference has brought world-class exhibits to Winnipeg - the type of shows normally reserved for galleries in Paris or New York.
He is also eager to celebrate Winnipeg talent, commissioning artists’ work and underwriting project and exhibition costs. He has invested in people like U of M alumnus Micah Lexier, a Winnipeg artist who, in 2015, received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Mr. Nesbitt also supported the Art Gallery of Ontario’s acquisition of a major installation of U of M alumna and Winnipegger, Sarah Anne Johnson, in 2009, ensuring the unique artworks stayed in Canada.
Believing in the intrinsic power of music, Mr. Nesbitt has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Desautels Faculty of Music. He helped establish the Babs Asper Professorship in Jazz Performance and later helped the faculty launch the Bridge Program to bring jazz music instruction to inner-city kids.
His steadfast support has made it possible for emerging artists and musicians to not only dream, but to dream big. One thoughtful gift at a time, Mr. Nesbitt has had a transformational impact on the projects and people he believes in.