She is one of the most generous but also largely unknown figures in Scottish culture, a woman described as a “model 21st-century philanthropist” who rarely, if ever, speaks in public. Now Dr Carol Colburn Grigor, who through her Dunard Fund has given more than £20million to the arts in Scotland, including £8m to the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) alone, has been honoured publicly by the EIF for the first time, at the opening concert of the 2013 programme.
Mrs Grigor, the Chicago-raised but Edinburgh-based former concert pianist, was announced as the new honorary vice president of the EIF. At the opening concert of the 67th EIF, director Sir Jonathan Mills said Dr Grigor’s contribution to the Scottish and UK arts scene had been “simply astonishing”.
Mrs Grigor very rarely gives interviews and Dunard Fund donations are usually unspecified, although it disperses more than £2m a year. It has provided vital financial support over several years to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Opera, Dunedin Consort, the National Galleries of Scotland and Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.
She once said: “Some people’s hobbies are buying expensive race horses or whatever. Our hobby is giving.”
Mrs Grigor’s father, Richard D Colburn, built up a multi-million dollar electrical company in the US, but he was also a viola player who gave money to Los Angeles’ leading music school.
Sir Jonathan added: “The depth of Mrs Grigor’s contribution to the visual and performing arts, and particularly to music and opera, throughout the UK but especially in Scotland, is simply astonishing.
“With characteristic self-deprecation Carol explains her behaviour in terms of genetics; suggesting that she was born with the ‘giving gene’. It is our honour to have her accept this role as honorary vice president.”
Mrs Grigor, who performed as a touring concert pianist in Edinburgh 30 years ago, gave up her career as a musician when she married Jens Hogel, a UN official.
They came to Edinburgh on business and in the 1970s bought Dunard House in Perthshire, after which the trust is named.
The couple later divorced, but Mrs Grigor stayed in Edinburgh where her children were raised.
Mrs Grigor has been recognised before, with a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), a recipient of the Prince of Wales Medal for Philanthropy, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettre.