Ray and Dagmar Dolby

NET WORTH:  $3.9 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of Dolby Laboratories

FUNDING AREAS: Healthcare , education, community issues,  stem cell research, Alzheimer's research

OVERVIEW: Ray Dolby passed away in September 2013. He made large investments in stem cell research and welfare programs. His legacy will continue through the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, of which Dagmar is the president. Since her husband's passing, Dagmar has joined the Giving Pledge.

BACKGROUND: Ray Dolby was hired by Ampex in 1949 when he was 16, and was considered an integral player in the development of the company's first videotape recording system. A few years later, he went to Cambridge University and earned his Ph.D. in physics. He founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965 and became enormously wealthy, developing systems that were designed to eliminate background noise from audio recordings. Over the years, Dolby won a number of awards for his work in the recording and film industries, and his name is now ubiquitous with quality sound. Dagmar, a Heidelberg University graduate, was studying in a summer program at Cambridge University when she met Ray in 1962. The two later married and had two sons, Tom and David.


STEM CELL RESEARCH: Dolby earned his reputation as a philanthropist primarily for his large donations to fund stem cell research programs at the University of California. In 2006, he contributed $16 million to launch the University of California San Francisco's fundraising campaign for the the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building. The gift made it possible to merge the work of 15 labs into one location and allow for a greater "cross-pollination of ideas," which Dolby hoped would accelerate the development of cures. He followed up on his support by giving another $20 million.

SF BAY AREA COMMUNITY: Although the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund prioritizes stem cell research, it is also active in the San Francisco community, making contributions and grants to organizations dedicated to such diverse issues as women's rights, child abuse and poverty. Many of the larger donations go to arts organizations, including the American Conservatory Theater, the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, along with dozens of smaller grants to groups such as art museums, film societies, public television, and community arts organizations.

LGBT CAUSES: The Dolbys' son, Tom, is gay, and legally married his partner in California just before voters passed Proposition 8 and forbade others from doing the same. Dolby donated $135,000 to the effort to fight Proposition 8, and the fund continues to support organizations promoting gay rights.

HEALTHCARE: In her letter on the Giving Pledge website, Dagmar wrote, "The care of seniors with cognitive impairment as well as advocacy and support for Alzheimer's research has become a mission for our family. In the same vein we are committed to lifting the veil of shame around mental illness and allowing those affected to live to their full potential."

Since Dolby's passing, his foundation has donated over $1 million to the Alzheimer's Association, as well as $20 million to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

EDUCATION: In 2015, Dolby's estate gave Pembroke College at University of Cambridge $52.6 million and will make possible the “Ray and Dagmar Dolby Court.” The gift was "the largest gift to a Cambridge College in modern times."

Dagmar highlighted educational interests in her Giving Pledge letter: "We would like to see children have a healthy start in life and receive proper educational opportunities at all levels."


Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund
c/o Dagmar Dolby
3340 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94118

LINKS: MIT's Inventor of the Week: Ray Dolby