THE Aga Khan, the billionaire racehorse owner, and Sir Tom Farmer, the Kwik-Fit founder, were yesterday presented with a prestigious award for philanthropy.
They joined four others who were handed the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy during a ceremony at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Also honoured in the awards were Agnes Gund, chairwoman of the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Cadbury chocolate family and the Hewlett and Packard families.
The ceremony was the first time the event, inaugurated in 2001 and held every two years, had taken place outside the US. The awards, which recognise individuals who have donated their private wealth for the public good, were named after philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose family emigrated to the US from a life of poverty in Scotland in 1848. After becoming the world's richest man by 1901, he eventually gave away the equivalent of nearly £8.5bn after making his fortune in iron and steel, establishing a family of worldwide foundations.
William Thomson, Carnegie's great-grandson who attended the ceremony, said later that the Carnegie Trust UK was considering setting up a centre for philanthropy which he hoped would be based in Scotland.
The Aga Khan is the imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed.
He has been working to improve living conditions in the developing world, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, south and central Asia and the Middle East.
Accepting his award, the Aga Khan, one of the world's richest men, said philanthropy was an important duty for all major religions.
He said: "In Islam, the Holy Koran offers explicit direction to share resources beyond one's requirements and to care for the poor and those in need."
Sir Tom, who said he was humbled to be honoured alongside the others, joked: "I thought, 'why me?' – when you compare me with them I'm just a raindrop in the ocean.
"Unless perhaps the nominations committee looked at my business life and took into account all the discounts I gave to the millions of drivers."
Jack McConnell, first minister, said of Sir Tom: "He was unwilling to stand by and watch the horrors of the war in Kosovo.
"He used his business to receive and support aid from the public." Before the event, Mr McConnell talked of the emergence of a new age of philanthropy north of the border.
He said: "Distinguished Scots such as Sir Tom Farmer, Ann Gloag, Sir Tom Hunter, Irvine Laidlaw and others are making a huge contribution both at home and abroad.
"In post-devolution Scotland wealthy individuals and corporate donors add value to the work of the devolved government.
"They are helping to build the future." Anna Southall, chair of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which promotes civil rights, said it was a privilege to be recognised in the awards.
Susan Packard Orr, chair of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation which has given millions to a range of projects, said the central theme to her family was not how much money it gave away.
She said: "Money by itself accomplishes nothing. The accomplishments come from the dedication and commitment of the people who do the work of the non-profit organisations that we have been privileged to support."
Sir Tom Farmer CBE KCSG is acknowledged as one of Scotland's foremost entrepreneurs and philanthropists. In 1971, he set up Kwik-Fit selling tyres and exhausts before selling the business. The Aga Khan became imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims in 1957 at the age of 20. Over the last four and a half decades, the present Aga Khan has expanded the scope and geographical reach of aid agencies and brought used to take the art lover to Saturday-morning art classes at the Cleveland Museum.
Her father was George Gund Jr who was president of Cleveland Trust Company for 25 years. -----