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The Life-Changing Impact of the Wes Hall Scholarship on Telfer Students

Abigail Fabian Gonzalez and Louis Philippe Ariel Nanihio standing next to Wes Hall

Wes Hall was raised by his grandmother without running water or electricity in a remote rural area in the Caribbean. Today, he’s one of North America’s most powerful finance leaders.  

Hall has authored a memoir, No Bootstraps When You’re Barefoot: My Rise from a Jamaican Plantation Shack to the Boardrooms of Bay Street. He’s a “dragon” on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, and has made Maclean’s list of Canada’s most powerful business people. Hall is the executive chairman and founder of Kingsdale Advisors, WeShall Investments Inc. and the BlackNorth Initiative, tirelessly working to end systemic anti-Black racism in Canada.  

In 2022, Wes Hall established a life-changing award at uOttawa’s Telfer School of Management, the Wes Hall Admission Scholarship for Black or Indigenous students, to enable and inspire future business leaders from these communities. Two deserving students pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in finance at the school have received full scholarships — $60,000 each — to fund their entire studies at Telfer. They’ll also receive personal mentorship from Wes Hall himself. 

The cost of post-secondary education in Canada can make a degree inaccessible to many students, particularly from marginalized communities. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, including Hall, the Telfer school offers a variety of scholarships and bursaries to allow more young leaders to pursue higher education. Students can devote more time to studying and experiential learning opportunities such as business case competitions and students’ clubs.  

Meet the Wes Hall Scholars 

We’re proud to name Abigail Gonzalez Fabian and Louis Philippe Ariel Nanihio as the two Wes Hall Scholars. Each will receive $60,000 toward their studies, covering tuition, living expenses and school supplies.  

Both interested in finance, Abigail and Louis are now being mentored by Hall. Having such a successful mentor can open many doors for employment, lead to invaluable networking connections and help “get your foot in the door.”  

Abigail Gonzalez Fabian: International focus 

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic in a family of five, Abigail came to Canada three years ago. Abigail’s father is the sole provider, as her mother helps take care of Abigail’s special-needs siblings. Passionate about integrating into Canadian culture, Abigail has worked on numerous community projects, such as work at her local YMCA and at her school, including running a self-defence workshop for minority students and participating in a Model United Nations. At 17, Abigail is eager to begin her university journey, persevering despite difficult circumstances.  

“Winning this scholarship is really an honour,” says Abigail. “When I went into the meeting, I was expecting an interview, and then I found out I had already won the scholarship. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Earning the scholarship means the world to me, since besides bringing me enormous peace of mind, as I will have less of a financial burden when I graduate, I also have the privilege of being one of the mentees of one of the greatest Canadian entrepreneurs in the finance world. Wes Hall’s story gives me hope for my future, since we both come from developing countries in the Caribbean and are now here.” 

Abigail chose to focus her BCom on finance, to maximize her strengths in math, analytical thinking and communication (she speaks multiple languages). Excited about the technological revolution in the finance industry, she wants to explore working in an international environment and be able to find employment anywhere in the world. That’s why she’s doing a dual specialization, studying international management, as well. Finally, a finance degree is a practical choice — immigrating from a country where it’s difficult to find stability, Abigail is dedicated to her finance studies so she can support her parents and siblings.  

Louis Philippe Ariel Nanihio: Passion for community  

Louis is originally from Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa. He moved to Welland, Ontario, in 2022. Immigrating across continents is a difficult adjustment, with different cultures and climates. Despite the challenges, Louis is passionate about immersing himself in Canadian society. At a young age, he started giving back through volunteering, first back home in Côte d’Ivoire, as a Boy Scouts guide and a volunteer at a boys’ orphanage. In Welland, he volunteered at Out of the Cold, a food and assistance service for people in need, and has helped with local food drives. Outside of school, Louis prioritizes his family and spends his spare time on hobbies such as soccer, scouting and track and field.  

“Being one of the recipients of the Wes Hall scholarship is a true privilege and a life-changing opportunity,” says Louis. “The day of the announcement of the recipients, my family and I celebrated this news in the best possible way. This scholarship will allow me to further engage in my community, gain a broader perspective on the world and its possibilities, and access quality education in financial and economic matters. This will enable me to make a significant impact in my field. 

“I am genuinely excited about the prospect of receiving personal mentorship from Mr. Wes Hall himself. I commit to working even harder to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way. Thank you immensely.” 

To Louis, this scholarship is a symbol of inclusion and diversity in his chosen field, finance, with its decades-long systemic barriers to minorities. Louis wants to give back to the local community through economic empowerment and serve as a role model.   

About Wes Hall, the “King of Bay Street” 

Hall grew up with an abusive and mostly absent mother in difficult conditions in rural Jamaica. In an interview with CBC, Hall thanks his grandmother, Julia Vassel, for making countless sacrifices to provide for him on a plantation worker’s salary. When he was 16, Hall moved to Toronto to live with his father. He went to high school and worked at a mailroom on Bay Street. Little did he know that years later, he’d be working in the very skyscrapers he passed on his way to work.  

Wes Hall sitting on a stool wearing a plaid suit.Hall founded Kingsdale Advisors with only a $100,000 bank loan and a relentless drive to succeed, and turned it into the nation’s most powerful shareholder advisory firm. His humble beginnings instilled in him ambition, industriousness, curiosity and intelligence.  

Hall credits a familiar name with his big break: Ian Telfer, a gold magnate and namesake of the School of Management at uOttawa, who hired Hall’s upstart firm for a huge merger. “It changed my life! Our world is better off because of people like him,” Hall told a previous interviewer.  

With a steel resolve to give back and uplift the community, Hall is a dedicated philanthropist, focusing on anti-racism in particular through his company WeShall Investments Inc. and the BlackNorth Initiative, imploring Canadian businesses to address systemic racism in their organizations.  

Hall has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Global Citizens Award from the United Nations Association Canada. In 2022, Hall won the Canadian Business Leader of the Year Award from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.  

In 2021, Hall received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa. He’s an engaged member of the Telfer Strategic Leadership Cabinet, regularly giving time to make students’ lives better. In 2022, Hall was the 31st Telfer Entrepreneurs’ Club business dinner keynote speaker. At the event, Hall spoke with Telfer Dean Stéphane Brutus about his life and secrets to success, and announced the new scholarship.  

Support Telfer Diversity and Equity Scholarships 

There are many more undergraduate and graduate students from racialized and Indigenous communities like Abigail and Louis who are deserving of financial support and need additional resources to complete their studies. You can make a difference by donating to support any of the various Diversity and Equity scholarships at Telfer.  

About the Author

Jeune diplômée du programme de baccalauréat en sciences commerciales spécialisé à l’École de gestion Telfer, Sonya Gankina a déjà amorcé sa carrière en tant que consultante et rédactrice en marketing numérique. Ses trois années d’expérience en agence cumulées pendant ses études l’ont aidée à fonder sa propre entreprise, où elle travaille avec de petites boîtes de la région comme de vastes sociétés au Canada et aux États-Unis. On peut la lire dans plusieurs publications de renom, et dans un blogue sur les arts et la culture à Ottawa. <br><br>Sonya Gankina is a recent graduate from the Honours Bachelor of Commerce program at the Telfer School of Management and has already begun her career as a consultant and writer in digital marketing. Armed with three years of agency experience earned while completing her studies, she has established her own business working with local businesses and large enterprises in Canada and the United States. She’s been featured in numerous respectable publications and also writes for an arts and culture blog in Ottawa.

Profile Photo of Sonya Gankina