Obituary: John Prescott Imlay, businessman

American businessman whose philanthropy benefited many people ' and golf courses ' around Scotland. Picture: Contributed

American businessman whose philanthropy benefited many people ' and golf courses ' around Scotland. Picture: Contributed

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Born: 1936. Died: 25 March, 2015, in Atlanta Georgia, aged 78.

John Imlay had a deep and lasting affection for Scotland. He and his wife Mary Ellen restored to its former glory their Westerdunes House and grounds in North Berwick where their hospitality was legendary. They came several times every year from the United States.

John and three companions would play golf at the clubs where he was a member: the Royal and Ancient St Andrews, Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers Muirfield, North Berwick, Prestwick and Troon. He was such an enthusiast with a flow of projects, ideas and plans and always an alert eye, a firm hand shake and a welcome chuckle when he met you.

“Generous” describes him so well – he was generous with his time to help others and generous with his support for people and charities.

He set up the Imlay Foundation to help charities in the Atlanta area and then decided Scotland should be among the beneficiaries.

In the past 25 years 158 Scottish charities have benefited, from Inverness to the Borders, from East Lothian to Glasgow.

With his Georgia Tech degree in industrial management he rescued the bankrupt Management Science America (MSA) to become a leading software developer and incubator for future senior managers.

At one point it was estimated that 320 senior US executives had their early start with MSA. He set up Imlay Investments to cultivate new talent and to help fund start-up companies. He was a man of vision, investing in companies and individuals where he saw potential.

His generous spirit lead him to be a main inspiration for creating the Bobby Jones Exhibition in the Atlanta History Center and he was a leading member of the Robert T Jones Memorial Trust which funds an exchange programme for students at St Andrews and Emory University, Atlanta.

His energetic, imaginative mind then decided to create golf course bridges, of which there are now six from North Berwick to Prestwick with their gentle arc and glowing stone.

Their functional beauty adds special character to each course and they are powerful, graceful, memorials to a great Scots enthusiast.

John is survived by his wife Mary Ellen and family.

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