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The family of John A. Tory, a groundbreaking lawyer-turned-business executive, is donating $3-million to the University of Toronto to fund scholarships for students pursuing the school’s coveted combined law and business degree.

The Tory family’s gift helps makes one of the most expensive graduate programs in the country more affordable, and based on merit, the university says. Over four years, students spend $174,000 in tuition to earn a master’s in business administration and a law degree. The new scholarships range from $20,000 to $40,000 annually and are available to at least four students.

“This gift is all about access,” said Susan Christoffersen, dean of the the the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, in an interview. The program attracts between 15 and 20 students each year. Ms. Christoffersen said: “These scholarships will ensure the best and brightest of students can take part in the program, based on their merit.”

Mr. Tory, who died in 2011 at the age of 81, was a central figure in Canadian law and business for six decades. He and his twin brother, James, graduated from the Toronto university’s first law school class and joined their father’s firm in 1951.

They helped build a partnership, now known as Torys LLP, that ranks among the country’s dominant corporate law firms. In 1973, Mr. Tory left to work for one of his clients, as president of the Thomson family’s holding company, Woodbridge Co. Ltd. He played a central role in shaping Thomson Reuters Corp. Woodbridge owns The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Tory also advised entrepreneurs such as Ted Rogers, founder of the telecom company that bears his name.

“My father was something of a pioneer in successfully incorporating his legal background into a business role, and we’re pleased to honour his legacy with this gift,” said John H. Tory, his son and the former mayor of Toronto, president of the media and cable divisions of Rogers Communications Inc. and Canadian Football League commissioner.

“Since its inception, a JD/MBA degree has propelled the career trajectories of its graduates,” says Jutta Brunnée, dean of the University of Toronto’s law faculty, in a press release. “We are so grateful to the John A. Tory family for this generous gift.”

Graduates of the joint program include Joanna Rotenberg, president of personal investing at Fidelity Investments, eBay Canada head Andrea Stairs, former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board chief executive officer Mark Wiseman, and Cornell Wright, president of Wittington Investments Ltd., the Weston family’s holding company.

The Tory family donation will also fund an annual University of Toronto lecture on new approaches and trends in tax law

“Our father was an early leader in bringing together law and business. He took joy in both, and he was accomplished in both disciplines,” said Jennifer Tory, his daughter and a former executive at Royal Bank of Canada, in a press release. “So it is fitting that we honour him by supporting two places of excellence in these disciplines.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the sum of the Tory family's donation. This version has been updated.

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