Tom Hunter awarded Carnegia Medal of Philanthropy

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Scots businessman Tom Hunter has dedicated an international award for his philanthropic work to his late father.

The entrepreneur paid tribute to his “hero and inspiration” as he attended a ceremony at the Scottish Parliament to receive the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Tom Hunter has been awarded for his philanthropy at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Joey Kelly

Tom Hunter has been awarded for his philanthropy at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Joey Kelly

He is one of six recipients of the biannual medal, which recognises leading figures who use their wealth for public good and is described by some as the “Nobel prize for philanthropy”.

Sir Tom, described by the Sunday Times newspaper in 2007 as Scotland’s first home-grown billionaire, said his father had taught him the importance of “giving back” during his childhood in New Cumnock, East Ayrshire.

He said: “Growing up in a very small village in Scotland that was dominated by the coal mines, he was a grocer. He totally understood that he could make a living only if the community prospered and to put something back into the community that was giving him a living.

“That was something that was instilled in me from a very early age.”

Sir Tom, 52, also called for the story of Andrew Carnegie to be taught in Scottish schools to inspire the next generation of business leaders and philanthropists.

The Dunfermline-born steel magnate, the richest man in the world at the beginning of the 20th century, founded the Carnegie UK Trust in 1913 as part of a network of organisations dedicated to “improving the wellbeing of the masses”.

“Andrew Carnegie has been pretty inspirational to me and seeing the medal ceremony back in Scotland is fantastic,” Sir Tom said.

“This is a fantastic Scottish and global story and I only came across it really by luck and chance, and we shouldn’t leave it to chance.”

Sir Tom started his first business selling sports shoes from the back of a van with a £5,000 loan from his father, building the business into Europe’s largest independent sports retailer and eventually selling it in 1998 for £290 million.

Along with his wife, Lady Marion Hunter, he went on to establish The Hunter Foundation which supports educational and entrepreneurial projects.

He was knighted in 2005 for services to entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

Speaking about the work of the foundation, he said: “The main priority for us is looking at how we can become a more entrepreneurial society in Scotland, which doesn’t mean a conveyor belt of entrepreneurs.

“It means that whether you are a bricklayer or a journalist or an academic, just have a more can do attitude to life and look at things from a different point of view.

“Why can’t the next Google or Facebook or Twitter be built from Scotland? There’s no reason. The only thing that constricts us is our own imagination and therefore I really believe education should burst open that imagination in kids.”

The other award recipients are Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who chairs the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development; US mathematician Dr James Harris Simons and his wife, the economist Dr Marilyn Simons; Dr Dmitry Zimin, founder of the second-largest telecom business in Russia; and Dame Janet Wolfson de Botton, on behalf of the Wolfson family for its foundation which promotes excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education, the arts and humanities.

They receive their medals at a ceremony at Holyrood today, only the second time the event has been held outside the US. The Scottish Parliament previously hosted the awards in 2005.

• The entire medal ceremony can be viewed here.

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