On October 3rd, 2017, over 300 people gathered to celebrate the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, the “father of modern philanthropy,” and the nine esteemed Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipients. After processes into The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building behind tradition Scottish bagpipes, Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation New York, introduced the medalists to the crowd.
“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.”
Before the medals were presented, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble took the stage to perform a selection of instrumental songs and dances. Master of ceremonies, Katty Kay from BBC World News America, came to the stage to introduce each medalist.
“Today,” said Kay, “philanthropy is being called upon to play an even greater national and international role — in fighting poverty and other global ills, in funding research and development on issues like climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, and in sustaining democracy at home and around the world. Helping the people and the causes that need it most must always be the priority. Our former, current, and future medalists are all keenly aware of this.”
After Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest and Sir James Wolfensohn accepted their medals, Tompkins Conservation leader Kristine Tompkins took the stage, focusing her statements on the satisfaction she finds through her conservation philanthropy. “Getting up every day and focusing on the things we love has brought new dimensions into our personal lives that we never thought imaginable.”
Kris was then followed by Azim Premji, Shelby White, Mei Hing Chak, Julian Robertson, and Jeff Skoll, who have all committed their philanthropic efforts to making the world a better place. Surprise guest Big Bird joined Sherrie Westin (Executive VP, Sesame Workshop) and Dr. Gregorian on stage to tell the crowd about his Yellow Feather Fund, which brings educational materials to children in need all around the world.
Kay concluded the ceremony 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.”
From everyone at Tompkins Conservation, congratulations to all of the medalists!