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Record gift from estate of sound pioneer Ray Dolby


The University of Cambridge announced today the gift of £35 million from the estate of Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories and its world-renowned Dolby Noise Reduction, Dolby Surround, and successor audio signal processing technologies, which have revolutionised the audio quality of music, motion pictures, and television worldwide.

The gift to Pembroke College is the largest gift to a Cambridge College in modern times and will make possible the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Court. The gift is also the largest single gift so far in the £2 billion fundraising campaign for the University and Colleges of Cambridge that launched in October.

Ray Dolby, who died in 2013 at the age of 80, received his PhD from Cambridge in 1961 as a Marshall Scholar and was a graduate student and Research Fellow at Pembroke College. It was in Cambridge that he met his future wife Dagmar and studied at the University’s world-renowned Cavendish Laboratory of Physics.

In 1965, he founded Dolby Laboratories in London and invented the Dolby System, an analog audio encoding system that forever improved the quality of recorded sound. He moved the company in 1976 to San Francisco, where it has been headquartered ever since and where it unveiled its new 16-storey headquarters in September.

Dagmar Dolby said: “The University of Cambridge played a pivotal role in Ray’s life, both personally and professionally. At Cambridge, he gained the formative education and insights that contributed greatly to his lifelong groundbreaking creativity, and we also began a wonderful lifetime together there.”

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Leszek Borysiewicz, said: “Ray Dolby’s bequest is an eloquent statement of his devotion to the University and all that it meant to him. This gift will create a spectacular setting in which future students will benefit from the University’s education and begin to make their own mark in the world of innovation, as Ray did with such notable impact.”

The Master of Pembroke College, Chris Smith, said: “Pembroke is extraordinarily grateful to Ray and Dagmar Dolby for their generous support for the College’s expansion and all that it will mean to future generations. As our students receive their own formative educations and contemplate the world before them, they could be in no more appropriate setting than the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Court.”

The University’s current fundraising campaign will focus on Cambridge’s impact on the world and will feed into the dynamic environment of the Cambridge technology cluster, helping to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. More than £590 million has already been raised, including this gift, and 30,000 donors have already given to the campaign.

Other notable gifts by Americans – announced previously – include the following: $27 million (£17.5 million) by Bill and Weslie Janeway for the Faculty of Economics and Pembroke College; and, $25 million (£16.4 million) by Jamie Walters and Dr Mohamed El-Erian for Queens’ College and the Faculty of Economics. Dr El-Erian is Co-Chair of the campaign.

The University's long history as a catalyst for scientific innovation spans its close links to the Cambridge’s high-tech cluster and to the San Francisco area and Silicon Valley, as Ray Dolby’s legacy demonstrates.


Multi-million pound legacy to create a new 'Ray and Dagmar Dolby Court' at Pembroke College

This gift will create a spectacular setting in which future students will benefit from the University’s education and begin to make their own mark in the world of innovation
Vice-Chancellor Professor Leszek Borysiewicz
Pembroke College

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