Lawrie Pollard’s optimism allowed him to achieve much.
When Lawrie Pollard looked at the world, he saw opportunity. This led to a successful career in business, a large social network, enduring friendships, and a tireless commitment to community.
“He had this super optimism about what could be achieved,” says son John Pollard.
“He was optimistic, and he was also enthusiastic. He was an enthusiastic participant and he didn’t just talk about doing things, he did things,” adds son Gordon Pollard.
This optimism led him to transform his family’s commercial printing business into what today is the second largest producer of instant lottery tickets in the world, employing more than 1,700 people.
But as Gordon and John note, Lawrie was a bit of a late bloomer. Raised in River Heights, Lawrence Oliver (Lawrie) Pollard attended United College, but he did not graduate from university.
“He was not a great student, but he was a really well read, well-rounded individual when it came to anything that had to do with news, world affairs or world events,” Gordon says.
What he lacked in formal education, he made up for in other ways.
“My dad was a very charming, charismatic guy. I’m sure when he was 30 he was very charming, and he was still really charming when he was 90-years-old,” Gordon says.
That charm helped him win over Frances Struthers, to whom he was married for 61 years. The couple had five children: Gordon, John, Shelagh, Barbara and Douglas.
Lawrie joined his father at the family printing business, Saults and Pollard, in 1947. Lawrie became President at the age of 34 in 1962, when his father died.
Lawrie enjoyed being active in the community. He was President of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and of the Canadian Graphic Arts Industries Association, and was an inaugural member of the Associates of the Asper School of Business.
He also served on countless not-for-profit boards including The Winnipeg Foundation, United Way, The Salvation Army, CancerCare Manitoba, Winnipeg Humane Society and the Children’s Museum.
“It’s amazing how many different things he was able to do in his life in terms of the number of boards he was on… And the reason he was able to do that partly was because he did not sweat the small stuff,” John says.
“He did not think he was the smartest guy in the room. He had strongly held opinions and ideas generally about what should be done, but he definitely felt there were lots of other smart people to figure out a lot of the details and actually get it done,” John adds.
Lawrie’s optimism and belief in others helped when he decided to take the family business in a new direction. In the 1980s, when he was in his mid-50s, he mortgaged the family house and assets to enter into the instant lottery market. John and Gordon remember it as a stressful transition, but the company soon thrived.
“What he did was create an opportunity for us, by going out on a limb, by borrowing the money, and transforming Saults & Pollard into Pollard Banknote… he stepped down as CEO to become Chairman not long after he got into the lottery business; what he really did was leave us an opportunity,” Gordon says.
For his work, Lawrie was honoured as Manitoba Entrepreneur of the Year in 1991, and inducted into the Manitoba Business Hall of Fame in 2014.
After stepping down as CEO, Lawrie had more time for golf and socializing, though he continued to enjoy coming into his office every day to keep up to date on the business and visit with staff. He also remained highly active and engaged in his community.
“He naturally saw the good side of people all the time. The kinds of people community service organizations are typically trying to help, are people that a lot of people in society could…dismiss and look down on. And yet our father never talked that way,” John says.
Lawrie’s outlook and beliefs influenced the family, which continues to give back to the community that has supported them. John Pollard now serves on The Winnipeg Foundation’s Board of Directors, just as his father did.
“We have benefited from this community, from being fortunate to grow up in the city which has treated us so well in so many ways, and so you have to give back,” John says.
As a testament to Lawrie Pollard’s impact in Winnipeg, when he passed away earlier this year at the age of 91, 1,200 people attended his funeral. The family directed memorial gifts to The Foundation, and also notes Lawrie left a bequest to the organization.
Fund: Aleta and Wilbur Pollard Memorial, which Lawrie Pollard established in memory of his parents
Supports: The changing needs and emerging opportunities in our community
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This story is featured in the Summer 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.