Biggest ever donation for Oxbridge college

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Geography Photos | UIG | Getty Images

Pembroke College, Cambridge, is set to benefit from what it says is the largest gift ever made to a Cambridge or Oxford college.

In a statement released this week, Lord Smith, a former cabinet minister under Tony Blair and now Master of Pembroke College, said that Dagmar, the widow of Ray Dolby, and her family, had made "an astonishing gift of £35 million ($52.9 million) to the college."

Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1933, Ray Dolby went to Pembroke in 1957 to study for a PhD. He is best known for founding Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965. A year later, the company created what it says was "the first product to reduce noise in music recordings" while in 1982 it created the surround sound system for home users.

While the Dolby gift is not insignificant by any means, it is dwarfed by the $400 million gift made by John A. Paulson to Harvard in June. The endowment will support Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Back in the U.K., Smith said that the gift would "help not only to transform Pembroke, but also the lives of generations of students to come."

He added that the college now had the chance to create new teaching, research and seminar spaces as well as new accommodation for graduates and undergraduates, among other things.

Pembroke was "exceedingly grateful to the Dolby family" Smith said. Ray Dolby died in 2013.