On a beautiful October afternoon, more than 300 distinguished guests — including Vartan Gregorian, Yo-Yo Ma, and Big Bird — gathered in the Beaux-Arts splendor of The New York Public Library’s Bartos Forum to salute the “awe-inspiring” munificence of this year’s Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy awardees.
It was a day to honor those who use their success and stature to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. More than 300 guests came to The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Oct. 3, 2017 to celebrate nine of the most influential philanthropists on the planet.
Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, enlightened the crowd about the exceptional achievements of this year’s medalists.
“Indeed, the munificence of the Carnegie Medal recipients is not only remarkable, but awe-inspiring,” said Gregorian. “You are living examples of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic legacy and of those who have followed in his footsteps. You have all dedicated not only your personal wealth, but your reputations, your time, and your talents to causes of deep significance to you and to your communities: namely education, international peace, the environment, the arts, the protection of our democracy, and much, much more.”
As the morning moved to afternoon, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble took to the stage to perform a selection of instrumental songs and dances, highlighted by Sandeep Das’s haunting tabla solo.
Speaking next was the event’s master of ceremonies, BBC World News America presenter Katty Kay. Kay brought each of the medalists on stage in turn, displaying videos detailing their philanthropic efforts.
The 2017 honorees are:
• Mei Hing Chak China; HeungKong Charitable Foundation
• H. F. (Gerry) and Marguerite Lenfest U.S.A.; Lenfest Foundation
• Azim Premji India; Azim Premji Foundation
• Julian Robertson U.S.A.; Robertson Foundation
• Jeff Skoll U.S.A.; Skoll Foundation
• Kristine McDivitt Tompkins U.S.A.; Tompkins Conservation
• Shelby White U.S.A.; Leon Levy Foundation
• Sir James D. Wolfensohn U.S.A. and Australia; Wolfensohn Center for Development
In addition, Big Bird, accompanied by Sherrie Westin, executive vice president for Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, took the stage to tell attendees about his Yellow Feather Fund, which brings educational materials to children in need all around the world. Before he left the stage, Gregorian couldn’t help but steal a quick hug from the very big, very yellow Big Bird.
Kay concluded the afternoon by summing up the sentiments of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy with a quote from Andrew Carnegie himself: “Wealth is not to feed our egos, but to feed the hungry and to help people help themselves.”
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