Carnegie Corporation chief to help bring new level of philanthropy to Scotland
By Alan Crawford
What do you give the man who has everything that money can buy? For millionaire entrepreneur Tom Hunter, the answer is precious advice on how to distribute his fortune to deserving causes that will benefit Scotland as a whole.
Hunter announced yesterday that he is to make £100 million available to the charitable foundation he established with his wife, and that he has recruited the services of one of the world’s experts in philanthropic acts to help him spend it.
That man is Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the charitable institution founded by multi-millionaire industrialist-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1911.
Gregorian, born in Iran to Armenian parents, is to join the board of The Hunter Foundation (THF), set up in Scotland by Tom and Marion Hunter in 1998 as a vehicle to further their involvement in what they call “venture philanthropy”.
Targeted at investment in enterprise and educational initiatives aimed largely at children, the aim is to help projects that “will or are likely to make a major contribution to the national economic and social wellbeing of Scotland”.
The involvement of Gregorian will take the Hunters’ philanthropy to new heights, and bring a little bit of the spirit of Carnegie back to the land of his birth.
Vartan Gregorian may “sound like something from Star Trek”, Hunter jokes, but his CV, first in academia and latterly in philanthropic roles, would fill this entire page. As well as heading up the Carnegie Corporation, he currently serves on the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Human Rights Watch and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
He has served on the boards of the J Paul Getty Trust, the Aga Khan University, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has “some 50” honourary degrees, including one from the University of Aberdeen.
Gregorian raised $400m to save the New York Public Library and later, as president of Brown University, tripled the university’s endowment. An author and academic, education is Gregorian’s forte, and Hunter’s passion.
So how did the two men’s paths cross? “I became interested in Carnegie and him being the president I just wrote to him and said, ‘Would he mind if I popped in to see him.’ It was that good old Scottish brass neck,” explained Hunter.
This was just after Hunter had sold his first business, Sports Division, and was looking at how best to establish a venture philanthropy in Scotland. The relationship has continued and THF is currently working with Carnegie Corporation on a “major innovation in teacher education” to be announced shortly.
Hunter, THF chairman, said in business he always tries to surround himself “with people who are smarter than me so I can learn along the way – through that you’ve got a fighting chance”.
Applying that same philo sophy to his charitable work and persuading Gregorian to join the board was a “major milestone” in advancing THF’s activities, he said.
“Vartan is probably the most influential thinker of this era in relation to philanthropy and the impact of education,” said Hunter. “His appointment will enable our trustees, and I believe Scotland, to benefit from an incredible network of contacts, programmes and leading-edge thinking that we can apply for the common good here in Scotland.”
In a statement, Gregorian, who also chaired the panel to select the design for the World Trade Centre memorial, was equally effusive in his praise for Hunter.
“Like his fellow Scotsman Andrew Carnegie, Tom Hunter believes that private wealth should be used as a force for the public good,” he said. “I look forward to working with Tom and his wife as they strengthen their philanthropic commitment and create a vision for a foundation that will be a force for this century in Scotland and elsewhere.”
THF’s brand of venture philanthropy is essentially about bringing the rigors of business life to charitable giving: setting objectives and achieving outcomes. The aim is to reap greater social rewards from the effort – and money – expended.
Since its formation in 1998 with an initial pot of £10m, THF has given £13.5m to a slew of projects: £1m to the Make a Wish Foundation; £500,000 to the Children’s Hospice Loch Lomond – conditional upon Texas playing at this year’s Entrepreneurial Exchange summer ball, “Charlene agreed”; and a £5m endowment to the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University.
However, the greatest success to date has been the schools enterprise programme, under which THF extended an existing programme undertaken by “a select few pupils” to primary schools across Scotland. Three years later, every primary school pupil in Scotland has two enterprise modules in their seven-year primary education.
Hunter is adamant that THF money should not be a substitute for government action, but instead should be used to forge partnerships.
“But part of the rules of engagement from my point of view is that once th e programme has proved it works, then I expect the taxpayer to take it on and we’ll move on to the next thing,” he said.
Hunter was keen to stress that he hadn’t stopped making money, only that he’s found it to be “only half the equation”.
He said: “I’m still as zealous and passionate as ever about creating wealth. That’s still my great focus. I want to emphasise that the wealth creation continues. I don’t want people to think I’ve given up.”
So which is better, making money or giving it away? “The feeling I felt when we managed to get every pupil in Scotland this enterprise [programme] was as big if not bigger than any buzz I got from any business deal I’ve done. And in turn, one drives the other because you do get to a point of creating wealth when you’ve achieved your material goals – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, if you want a nice house and a nice car, whatever you want. But then beyond that, you could say, ‘What’s the point?’ Well, I’ve found the point.”