Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Honorary award celebrates north-east philanthropist

Home / More / News / Honorary award celebrates north-east philanthropist

Published on 25 October 2022

Lady Cowie with Sir David Bell
Lady Cowie with Sir David Bell

The University of Sunderland has honoured Lady Diana Cowie, the widow of entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Tom Cowie, for maintaining his legacy of supporting disadvantaged students to reach their full potential.

Lady Cowie received an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration during a special lunch, and in the presence of students whose lives have been transformed thanks to the Sir Tom Cowie Excellence Scholarships.

The scholarships were set up by Lady Cowie and members of Sir Tom’s charitable trust in 2012. They were designed to honour Sir Tom’s memory, as he believed passionately in the University of Sunderland and its focus on opening up higher education to those with talent, irrespective of background.

This year, on what would have been Sir Tom’s 100th birthday, the scholarships are supporting four talented and deserving students who have demonstrated an excellent academic record with awards from £5,000 to £15,000, helping them to achieve their full potential.

University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Sir David Bell, said: “Lady Cowie has been a longstanding friend and supporter of the University of Sunderland and its work. Through her generosity, many students have benefited from scholarship funding and, as a result, have gone on to achieve great success professionally. Therefore, it is only fitting that we recognise Lady Cowie’s’ contribution through the award of an honorary degree.”

Over the years, the name ‘Cowie’ has become synonymous with Sunderland.

Whether through the creation of a hugely successful car sales company and Britain’s largest contract hire business, or taking the helm at Sunderland Football Club, or philanthropic work that has benefited hundreds of young people in our region, or the re-naming of the University’s very own St Peter’s riverside campus – all have benefited from the legacy of Sir Tom Cowie.

Sir Tom sadly passed away in 2012, at age 89, but his wife Lady Cowie, has been instrumental in continuing his legacy through The Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Trust, supporting grassroots projects to alleviate and address problems in disadvantaged areas of the Sunderland and County Durham since 2002.

Lady Cowie remains rooted to the region, where she was born and raised. The daughter of renowned British architect, George Kenyon, who designed Newcastle Civic Centre in the 1950s, Lady Cowie is acutely aware of the importance of building strong foundations which benefits the lives of others.