Donald Sobey

Obituary of Donald Creighton Rae Sobey

Donald Creighton Rae Sobey, C.M. Businessman, Philanthropist, Arts Patron, 1934 - 2021. Donald C. R. Sobey of Pictou County, died on March 24, 2021. He leaves Beth (Purvis), his wife of 56 years; children, Robert (Monique), Irene Aucoin (Gilles); and Kent (Meghan); grandchildren, Jane, Matthew, Connor, Charlie and Josephine as well as brother, David F. Sobey and sister, Dianne Sobey. Donald was predeceased by his mother and father, Irene (MacDonald) Sobey and Frank H. Sobey; brother, Bill and cousin, Gary Lewis. Like his brothers Bill and David before him, Donald Sobey was introduced to the family business at an early age. While most Saturdays he could be found late into the evening bagging potatoes or chopping cabbage in the basement of the family's store in New Glasgow, it was the lure of University and the excitement of moving to a new province that drew Donald to Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. It was there that he earned his Commerce degree in 1957, setting in motion a relationship with the Queen's School of Business that would last a lifetime. In 1958, Donald joined his father and brothers in the business; first in real estate financing for the rapidly expanding grocery business and then with Empire Company Limited which had been set up to diversify the family's business interests. He joined Empire's Board of Directors in 1963, before being appointed President in 1969 and Chairman in 1985. In September 2004, he retired as Chairman and was named Chair Emeritus, continuing to be actively engaged in the business as a member of the Board of Directors until he retired in 2015. His commitment to post secondary education saw Donald take leadership roles in important capital campaigns and in developing meaningful scholarships for a number of universities and colleges in Canada. In 1999, Donald and his son Robert established the D&R Sobey Atlantic Scholarship at Queen's. Since its creation, the D&R Sobey Scholarship has funded over 150 Atlantic Canadian undergraduate students at Queen's and since 2015, three MBA students per year. In 2017 he created the Donald R. Sobey Scholarships at the Nova Scotia Community College recruiting and sending over 75 students per year from at-risk constituencies to the NSCC. Donald's lifelong passion for the arts was born from a visit in 1949 to Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. Walking the halls of Trueman House, he discovered the brilliant murals of Alex Colville, then a young teacher in the University's school of fine arts. It was an experience that stayed with him his entire life and served as the impetus for a life of collecting and arts patronage. He served as a Trustee of the National Gallery of Canada for 14 years, including two consecutive terms as Chair of the Board. In 2002, as Chair of the Sobey Art Foundation, he oversaw the creation of the Sobey Art Award, Canada's preeminent prize for contemporary Canadian art. In 2003 he received the Keith Kelly Award for Cultural Leadership by the Canadian Conference for the Arts. Donald served on numerous corporate and charitable boards and his contributions to Canadian business were recognized when he was selected, along with brothers Bill (posthumously) and David, to the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame in 2002 and, with his brother David, to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 2007. He received honourary degrees from Dalhousie University, Mount Allison University, the University of King's College, St. Francis Xavier University, Cape Breton University, Queen's University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as well as an honourary diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2014. Donald's Family would like to extend its gratitude for the loving and compassionate care provided by the team of caregivers from Home Instead as well as to the staff of the Aberdeen Hospital. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Nova Scotia Community College. UNFORTUNATELY, DUE TO COVID-19, PRIVATE SERVICES WILL BE HELD BY INVITATION ONLY. A CELEBRATION OF LIFE WILL FOLLOW IN THE FUTURE. www.angusfuneralhomes.com
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