Banking background gives Doug Dawson the know-how to help nonprofits succeed

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Doug Dawson began his career in wealth management with Riggs National Bank, one of the oldest banks in the United States, often referred to as the “Bank of the Presidents.” Growing up in his East Coast family, Dawson said there was a tradition of giving your time, talent and treasure to those less fortunate. It was, and is for Dawson, as he says, “an obligation of living!”

After moving to La Jolla in the early 1970s, for the next 30 years, Dawson held senior management positions in the private banks of both Union Bank and Bank of America. Continuing his family’s philanthropic tradition, he has served on the boards of dozens of not-for-profit organizations. He was one of the founders of San Diego’s National Philanthropy Day 39 years ago.

Today, Dawson serves as president of the Friends of the La Jolla Library, and on the boards of La Jolla Playhouse, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Torrey Pines Reserve, as well as numerous advisory boards. He is the executive director of the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation.

What brought you to La Jolla?

My parents retired to La Jolla in 1971. Following my family, and a terrific career opportunity, lead me to La Jolla shortly thereafter.

What makes this area special to you?

Even with the growth of La Jolla, we have maintained a wonderful sense of community. I see my friends at Vons, and the proprietors of many locally owned businesses recognize all of us.

What might you improve in the area?

Avoiding the obvious responses, (parking, potholes, and traffic) I would like to add more philanthropic support for La Jolla’s treasured cultural assets, such as the La Jolla Library, and the Historical Society, as well as the Athenaeum, Museum of Contemporary Art, and our amazing Playhouse.

Who or what inspires you?

My 17 year-old son, Eric, inspires me the most. Eric was diagnosed with testicular cancer two years ago this month. He battled through his emotionally shocking diagnosis, continuing to play three sports at La Jolla High School, maintaining a strong GPA, and volunteering at Ronald McDonald House Charities. Eric will always be my inspiration!

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite my mom and dad, Elsie and Ed (they would enjoy the dinner guests); Thomas Jefferson, (founding father); Abraham Lincoln (I’m fascinated by that period in history); James Taylor (musical entertainment); Winston Churchill (greatly influenced the world); Jackie Robinson (sports and much more); and Ellen Browning Scripps (world famous philanthropist whose humanitarian legacy I have had the professional privilege of representing for 40 years).

What are your favorite movies of all time?

Not in order, “The Graduate,” “Sleepless In Seattle,” “Rudy,” and “Forrest Gump.”

What is your most prized possession


Possessions are not very important to me, but my roadster, and my two Maltese dogs are special.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy live theater, (La Jolla Playhouse), Padres and Chargers games, as well as delicious restaurants shared with my children, and my sweetheart, Sally.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Foremost is being dad to my five incredible children, Ted, Tracy, Danica, Annie, and Eric. Oh yes, also my daughter-in-law, Stephanie, (Ted’s wife) who is expecting the birth of our first grandchild in October!

What is your philosophy of life?

Leave the world better than you found it, asking nothing in return.