- Declan Kelly
- Sep 6, 2016
Bill Troost, MBA ’75, and his wife Kathleen recognize the vital role scholarships, teaching and research play in attracting top students.
As the founder and president of a leading international manufacturer, Bill Troost understands the importance of using quality methods and quality materials.
When it comes to post-secondary education, Troost believes these two aspects of quality are even more tightly connected than in industry.
“The strength of a school depends a lot on the quality of its students—the materials.” Bill says, speaking from the Yorkville home he shares with his wife Kathleen. “Great schools are in a virtuous circle where great teaching—the methods—attract great students, and great students, in turn, attract great teachers. Students also learn from one another, so attracting outstanding students is vital for any school.”
It isn’t difficult to see why the Troosts are so keen to ensure that the best students have access to post-secondary education, regardless of their ability to pay. When Bill’s family immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1960, limited resources put his plans of becoming a chemical engineer in doubt.
That changed when he was awarded a scholarship at the University of Toronto, which shaped his future prospects in work and romance alike. For it was while attending U of T that he met a certain nursing student he would later marry. “I couldn’t have gone to university otherwise,” Bill says of his scholarship. “Part of that award was largely based on need.”
Merit clearly also played a role, as those awarding the scholarship could hardly have chosen a more likely future business leader. Upon graduating from U of T in 1967, Bill started in research and development at Union Carbide in Montreal. After seven years and a move into operations management, Bill came to Ivey for an MBA, hoping to one day start his own firm.
With the couple expecting their first child, a scholarship award again played a key role in Bill’s education. “It meant that we got through the two years of the MBA Program without significant debt,” Kathleen recalls. “That was really important at that point because we were getting launched as a family, and we knew that Bill would like to start a business.”
In 1978, Bill did just that, founding Brampton-based Peel Plastic Products Limited. Combining his previous experience with his Ivey-acquired business insights, he quickly established Peel as a leader in the flexible packaging sector. Today, the company provides products and process innovation for major international brands in the pet food, lawn and garden, and health and wellness markets.
Through managing Peel’s remarkable growth and experiencing major events such as the global financial crisis, the Troosts have come to appreciate the importance of strong ethical leadership in business. So much so that they have made leadership the focal point of their incredible philanthropy to Ivey and U of T.
At Ivey, the Troosts have provided vital support for faculty positions, research, and student outreach events led by the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership. Bill also serves on the Institute’s Leadership Council, where he enjoys being part of a diverse mix of leaders from private and public-sector organizations.
Within the broad spectrum of research and teaching around leadership, the Troosts are particularly impressed with the focus on leader character that Institute Executive Director Gerard Seijts and Professor Mary Crossan, MBA ’85, PhD ’91, have made central to the Institute’s work.
“For us, the education part, in all forms, is important in the sense that we want better graduates to come out of the business schools,” Bill says. “The character piece of the Leadership Institute is, to us, extremely important. We certainly buy into both Gerard’s and Mary’s position on that.”
While he considers his own time at Ivey integral to his ensuing success, Troost concedes that ethics and leadership had yet to become as formalized into the business education curriculum in the mid-1970s as they have been in recent years.
“We weren’t challenged with many ethical questions in business schools then,” Bill notes. “I think it’s important that they should be in business schools, and we’re happy to see that it’s percolating pretty well into all of the courses.”
For Ivey faculty member Ann Peng, the Troost Professor in Leadership, it’s not only the level of support, but the Troosts’ enthusiasm and commitment to advancing research and teaching that sets them apart among the School’s supporters. Peng recently led a team of researchers conducting a meta-analysis on ethical leadership, with the resulting article forthcoming in a leading management journal.
“Besides the financial support, their support and passion for academic research has encouraged me to pursue high-quality research on leadership,” Peng says.
The Troosts are also strong supporters of the Institute’s active outreach agenda, having been impressed by the diverse array of speakers at Institute events. This has ranged from the likes of Olympic gold medallists Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, and former prime minister Paul Martin to more unconventional choices, such as Monica Lewinsky and disgraced former Enron CFO Andy Fastow.
“It’s amazing, if you look at Fastow, how easy it was for him to slip into that,” Bill says. “It starts with a small step and you just keep sliding.”
“Which was a good lesson for the students,” Kathleen adds. “So it is really great to see the quality of the presentations, and the enthusiasm of the students afterward.”
Photo: Nation Wong
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis