A journey interrupted, now completed

Ken Doll dreamed of being a lawyer. But when his own reality changed, he chose to make that path easier for other students.

Scott Rollans - 31 October 2018

People often want to acknowledge the university faculties that shaped their careers. Kenneth Doll, '88 BA, '89 BA(Cert), '91 MA, '94 BCom, is taking a uniquely different approach by leaving a generous gift to the law school that turned him down.

Doll first enrolled at the University of Alberta hoping to become a lawyer.

"I entered university as a mature student - although the 'mature' part is debatable," he says with a laugh. "At 25, I was at a point where I thought, 'You better go now or forget about it.' I had owned a business, a gas station, for five years. I sold that and used the money to go to university."

Doll completed a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in political science with a minor in economics, and then applied to the U of A's Faculty of Law, along with several other law schools.

Much to his disappointment, they all turned him away.

Thinking a graduate degree might boost his chances, Doll spent the next couple of years completing his MA in political science. He applied to law again - and again found himself on the sidelines. "So, there I was, with a master's, and I still can't get into law school. I was a little miffed, then."

As a plan B, Doll decided to complete a bachelor of commerce and pursue a different career.

Even with his degrees, Doll had a hard time competing for jobs. It was then he made a crucial life decision: he would forever place his law-school disappointments behind him.

"I sat myself down and had a little chat with myself, and said, 'This is life. You can either whine about it or make the best of this.'"

And make the best of it he did. Doll built a successful career in financial and estate planning, eventually opening his own Calgary-based firm, Wealth Architects. He also rose to the top of his industry to serve as chair of the Alberta Insurance Council. Over the years, he found himself more and more grateful for (and proud of) his accomplishments at the U of A. He decided to give back.

"As an estate planner, I help people set up their philanthropy - using life insurance for their legacy. So, I am practising what I preach. I thought, 'Hey, I should do that myself!'"

In setting up his own gift, Doll devised an immensely gracious, almost poetic gesture. He decided to create a pathway to allow others to complete the law school journey he had hoped to make himself.

"I wanted to use my life insurance to create a spot for a mature student to be accepted into law school," says Doll. "For somebody who might not otherwise get in, which was my situation. Maybe I can turn that into a positive for somebody else."

In doing so, he has banished any lingering regrets.

"I'm very proud of my education. It has certainly done well for me, even if things didn't quite turn out as originally planned."

Whereas others might have held on to sour grapes, Doll harbours only warm memories.

"Those were the best years of my life," he says. "I earned three degrees. I was there for eight years. I just thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a special place for me."