By Craig Coovert
When Leo Hindery Jr., Bellarmine Preparatory School Class of ’65, was speaking last fall with close friends – among whom was his cherished classmate, Bill Leedom, also Bellarmine Class of ’65 – during his and Leedom’s shared 70th birthday party in Scotland, little did he know that his words would prompt a gift of $100,000 to his high school alma mater. Hindery has been recognized not only as a St. Robert Bellarmine Award recipient (2000), but also as a Distinguished Alumni winner (2012), and it is this Bellarmine pride that drives much of his passion for education.
One of Hindery’s other dear friends in attendance that evening was Earl Gareth Jones of Scotland. During that evening at Skibo Castle – at one time Andrew Carnegie’s residence in Scotland, and now home to the private Carnegie Club – Hindery spoke with characteristic passion and charisma about the Hindery Family Scholarship Fund, which he created in 2000 at Bellarmine to provide tuition assistance for students of color and other students in need. Hindery talked about the fund because he was struck by the realization that some of the close friends with him that evening, including Jones, had themselves started with very little or nothing at all.
Hindery also reflected that evening on the example of Andrew Carnegie himself, who Leo describes as being “an unparalleled philanthropist who by the time of his passing had given away his entire fortune except for a modest gift to his daughter.” This is a practice Hindery is also following.
Hindery remarked that, “Life’s challenges for young people today are not easily confronted, especially if you are of color, poor or living in a difficult home environment.”
Jones was so moved by the discussion that evening that he decided to also support the Hindery Family Scholarship Fund. “Leo’s comments are the reason for my gift of $100,000,” said Jones. “He spoke so passionately about Bellarmine, the scholarship fund and the students.”
“He spoke so passionately about Bellarmine, the scholarship fund and the students.”
Hindery’s words hit home with Jones in many ways because of Jones’s own educational experience as a child. At age 15, Jones left school to start work – not because he wanted to, but because that’s how it was in Scotland in the 1960s.
“Back then you were pigeonholed if the system thought you weren’t going to achieve something notable in education,” remembered Jones. “It was simply best to leave school and go find work.”
Because of how he was treated in school, Jones also has a great passion for creating educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
“This is extremely important to me,” he added.
With education out of his reach, Jones chose a physically demanding journey that led him to marine engineering after leaving school in his teens. He first spent time as an apprentice on oil rigs in the North Sea, and eventually he started his own company, Dominion Gas, in the 1980s. Jones sold the company to a venture capital firm in 2007. Selling his company allowed Jones to retire to Arnage Castle in northeast Scotland, the purchase of which granted Jones the title of Earl. More important to Jones, however, the move provided him the opportunity to support those causes meaningful to him, such as access to education and support for organizations that focus on helping those who are less fortunate.
“There is nothing more valuable than providing quality education to our youth, and I am thrilled to know my gift is going to such a good cause,” says Jones. “I wish all the students of Bellarmine the best of God speed for the future and every success that they strive for in life.”