“If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it.”—2015 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy awardee Paul G. Allen
The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, given to those who dedicate their private wealth to the public good, was awarded in New York City in October 2015 to eight individuals and families who are among the most charitable and visionary philanthropists in America. The awards, created by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2001 during the centennial of Andrew Carnegie’s official career as a philanthropist, are given to those who have a vision of philanthropy like Carnegie’s.
Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian said the 2015 awardees share Carnegie’s ideals, ”that the rich are trustees of their wealth and are under a moral obligation to reinvest it in society in ways that promote the progress of society.” He said it was heartening to see Americans’ sustained and growing engagement with philanthropy: “Since the days of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, Americans’ collective charitable giving has risen immensely, to $358.38 billion in 2014.” Carnegie’s own $350 million in philanthropic giving would equal about $4.8 billion today.
The medals were presented at the New York Public Library on Oct. 15, 2015 in an impressive ceremony, a biennial event that has come to double as a family reunion of sorts, with representatives of Carnegie’s 22 institutions established in the U.S. and Europe taking part in the presentation and related activities. Four of the institutions are permanent members of the medal’s selection committee, and two additional of the institutions rotate with each award cycle. Gregorian serves as the committee’s chair, and William Thomson of Bonar Bridge, Scotland, one of the Carnegies’ great-grandchildren, serves as honorary chair.
Eight of Carnegie’s nine existing hero funds were represented at the events, with the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission of Pittsburgh sending 10 board and staff members: Mark Laskow, chair; Sybil P. Veeder, chair of the executive committee; Linda T. Hills, another of the Carnegie great-grandchildren; Dan D. Sandman, treasurer; Nancy L. Rackoff; Nathalie Lemieux; Joe C. Walton; Ann M. McGuinn; Susanne C. Wean; and Walter F. Rutkowski, president. Two of them played prominent roles in the week’s activities, with Hills giving remarks at the Carnegies’ gravesite and Laskow chairing a meeting of the hero funds, which have come together over the past few years to form the Carnegie Hero Funds World Committee.
The 2015 awardees of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy:
Paul G. Allen, a cofounder of Microsoft, is working to save endangered species, fight Ebola, research the human brain, support the arts, protect the oceans, and expand educational opportunity for girls, all through his company, Vulcan, Inc., and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. He has committed to giving away the majority of his fortune, having already donated more than $2 billion to worthy causes around the world.
Charles F. Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shoppers, the world’s largest luxury goods retailer, quietly transferred virtually all of his assets to The Atlantic Philanthropies in the 1980s. Atlantic has since made more than $7 billion in grants to promote education, health, peace, reconciliation, and human dignity throughout the world. Feeney’s “giving while living” philosophy has been credited by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as inspiration for starting The Giving Pledge, an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetimes or in their wills.
Jeremy and Hanne Grantham are co-chairs of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, into which they have poured ever-increasing shares of their personal wealth to bring more and better awareness of environmental challenges. They believe that mitigating and adapting to a changing climate will lead to a more sustainable and prosperous future. From their perspective, if earth’s environmental crises aren’t dealt with quickly, nothing else they do will really matter. Jeremy Grantham is cofounder and strategist of the investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co.
The Haas Family, descendants of Otto and Phoebe Haas, created the William Penn Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia, Pa., region. For more than 70 years and over four generations, the Haas Family has been committed to fostering learning, protecting the environment, and cultivating creative communities. Their legacy includes the transformation of Independence Mall, support for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and protection of the Delaware River watershed.
Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., founder of Huntsman Corp., a global manufacturer and marketer of specialty chemicals, focuses his giving on higher education, the rebuilding of Armenia after its devastating earthquake in 1988, homelessness, hunger, and abused women and children. In 1993, he and his wife, Karen, founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the major focus of their giving, to accelerate the work of curing cancer through human genetics. The institute is now one of America’s few comprehensive cancer centers, featuring leading-edge research laboratories, a hospital, outpatient clinics, an education center, and the world’s largest genetic database.
Irwin and Joan Jacobs are partners in philanthropy, having given to the engineering school and medical center of the University of California at San Diego, the San Diego Public Library, the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, the La Jolla Playhouse, the San Diego Symphony, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. They have given also to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell Institute of Technology, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, funding a professorship in genomics and neuroscience.
New York-based brothers Richard L. and Robert B. Menschel, senior directors of Goldman Sachs, have been “giving back” in countless ways for decades. Richard is a sponsor of health, education, and the arts, supporting the American Civil Liberties Union, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and the International Rescue Committee, and he has been a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Robert is committed to education and social reform as well as health and the arts. Through Vital Projects, the foundation he started more than 50 years ago, he has been a major supporter of photography and has established galleries and programs at the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, Syracuse University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and his foundation is also leader in criminal justice reform.
David M. Rubenstein, founder of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, practices what he calls “patriotic philanthropy,” purchasing and gifting historic documents and supporting historic landmarks and national cultural institutions like presidential homes Montpelier and Monticello, the Washington Monument, and the National Zoo. He purchased the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta and lent it to the National Archives, while other historic documents he owns—the 13th Amendment, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation—are on permanent loan to the U.S. government or historic sites. He has also made major contributions in health, higher education, and the arts, including to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and Lincoln Center, New York.
Previous awardees of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy
- Leonore and Walter Annenberg
- Brooke Astor
- Irene Diamond
- The Gates Family
- The Rockefeller Family
- George Soros
- Ted Turner
- Kazuo Inamori
- The Sainsbury Family
- The Cadbury Family
- Sir Tom Farmer
- Agnes Gund
- The Hewlett Family
- His Highness the Aga Khan
- The Packard Family
- Eli Broad
- The Heinz Family
- The Mellon Family
- The Tata Family
- Michael R. Bloomberg
- The Koç Family
- Betty and Gordon Moore
- Joan and Sanford Weill
- The Crown Family
- The Danforth Family
- Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller
- Fred Kavli
- Evelyn and Leonard Lauder
- Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder
- Li Ka-shing
- Pamela and Pierre Omidyar
- The Pew Family
- The Pritzker Family