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Leading with Heart: Wes Hall, entrepreneur and “Dragon,” champions diversity with new fund to support students from under-represented backgrounds at Huron University

Huron University
Apr 30 2024

London ON - “As I stood behind the curtains, tears almost came to my eyes, overwhelmed by the moment I was living in... I could feel the hearts and minds of my nation, my university community, my family and my friends behind me, making the moment truly special.”

That’s Ryan Martell, reflecting on the experience of speaking as part of a major conference at Huron in partnership with Western University. Martell, a first-year student from Jamaica, received a major scholarship to study at Huron thanks to the generosity of donor support. Now, thanks to a bold new investment from Wes Hall (seen above), a Jamaican-born Canadian entrepreneur and Chairman of WeShall Investments Inc., more students of diverse backgrounds like Ryan will benefit from financial support and unique professional development opportunities during their time at Huron. Inspired by Huron’s mission to develop “Leaders with Heart,” Hall has committed $1 million to create the Wes Hall Student Support Fund.

Raised by his grandmother on a plantation in Jamaica, Hall moved to Canada as a teenager. Starting his career as a clerk in a Toronto mailroom, he went on to emerge as a business leader, founding several global businesses, including Kingsdale Advisors, QM Environmental, the Harbor Club hotel in St. Lucia, and WeShall Investments.

Today, Hall is well known for his role as a Dragon on the popular TV series “Dragon’s Den,” and as a champion of diversity. He has never forgotten where he came from and often shares his rags-to-riches journey and the challenges he faced as a person of color in corporate North America.

Horrified by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, he founded the BlackNorth Initiative, committed to fighting anti-Black racism in Canadian business. His memoir, No Bootstraps When You’re Barefoot: My Rise From A Jamaican Plantation Shack To The Boardrooms Of Bay Street, was published in 2022 and is a national bestseller.

Hall’s generous gift will provide financial support for 18 high-potential students selected from diverse backgrounds, including black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), first generation Canadians and newcomers, and those facing financial and other barriers to post-secondary education. With support from WeShall Investments Inc., Hall’s private equity firm, students will also be supported in their professional development through opportunities for exclusive paid internships, mentoring, networking opportunities and experiential learning.

Above: Amaya Lezama (Huron Student), Lawrence Mutunga (Huron Student), Wes Hall (Business Leader and Philanthropist), Ryan Martell (Huron Student) and Barry Craig (Huron President) at the Nation Builder Event.

Hall also serves on Huron’s board as Vice Chair and recently received the University’s highest honor, the Huron Medal of Distinction. “Wes’s story is truly inspirational,” says Dr. Barry Craig, President of Huron University College. “Now he is extending a helping hand to others facing similar challenges. His generous contribution aligns perfectly with Huron’s commitment to ethical leadership, service to community, and social justice.”

“At WeShall, we believe that building people up, serving the under-served, and making a positive difference will pay the greatest dividends in the long term,” says Hall. “When I learned from Barry about Huron’s focus on Leaders with Heart, I knew that we were speaking the same language!”

Hall hopes that his gift and the example of his life will inspire students at Huron and beyond. Already it’s having an impact on Ryan Martell, who recently had the opportunity to see Hall receive the 2023 Nation Builder of the Year from the Empire Club of Canada. Says Martell, “Wes’s journey resonates deeply with me, proving that my dreams can transcend systemic challenges.”

Check out what Huron’s students had to say to Wes in response to this news:

To learn more about opportunities to support Leaders with Heart at Huron, please visit here.

Media Contact:
Vanessa Tosic
Manager, Communications
519-438-7224, ext. 802