02 Jul

Design Student Abby Stushnoff (left), Lady Stringer (middle) and Sir Howard Stringer (right) - Credit: Kirsten McTernan

Business giant Sir Howard Stringer has made an unexpected gift of £2 million to the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD), to help it restore and transform The Old Library in Cardiff's city centre.

The Welsh-American, whose portfolio includes being president at CBS and Sony, alongside his wife Lady Stringer, have now kick-started the college's ambitious fundraising campaign for the library, which needs to raise £12 million in total.

Stringer, who was born in Cardiff and studied at the University of Oxford, has a long-standing relationship with the college, having been made a Fellow in 2001.

The donation follows the recent transfer of the Library from Cardiff Council to the RWCMD for the next 99 years on a long lease.

To display a mark of gratitude, the college has decided to name the main first floor studio as the Sir Howard Stringer Studio for the remainder of the lease term.

The Old Library project, which is projected to be completed in the space of five years, will see a key-part of Cardiff's heritage return to its original mission as a public space for arts and education.

The college, which is approaching its 75th birthday next year, is now focusing on a period of consultation and public engagement activity to build-up a plan for the community use of the building.

This work will include working with other city centre businesses, diverse communities, venues, arts organisations as well as the public and current tenants such as the Museum of Cardiff and Menter Caerdydd.

Upon a visit to the library with college staff, students and guests, Sir Howard said:

"The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama has long been a cornerstone of Welsh culture. The conversion of the beautiful, historic library into brilliant rehearsal studios and classrooms extends the presence of the College into a wider community, through performance and public engagement while further securing its current and future role as a leader in the development of the arts and the creative industries in Wales."

Students in the new studio - Credit: Kirsten McTernan

Helena Gaunt, Principal at the RWCMD, explained:

"We owe huge thanks to Sir Howard and Lady Stringer for this heartfelt and generous gift. As we approach our 75th birthday we have a clear vision for the direction of the College and the Old Library is at the heart of it, offering new opportunities for students to curate and co-create inspiring performance and activities with diverse groups of participants and audiences."

Who is Sir Howard Stringer?

Sir Howard Stringer is a Welsh-born American business executive who became the first non-Japanese CEO (2005-12) of the technology and entertainment corporation, Sony.

In 1965, not long after receiving a master's degree in modern history from Merton College, Oxford, Stringer moved to the U.S where he found a job answering telephones at CBS for the Ed Sullivan Show.

Six weeks later, he was drafted into the US Army to fight in the Vietnam War where he was awarded five medals for his tour of duty.

Having complete his military service in 1967, he then returned to CBS where he remained until 1995, working on CBS News for most of that time, winning nine Emmy awards between 1974-1976 as a writer, director and executive producer as well as two Lifetime Emmys for Electronics and Entertainment. 

He became President of the corporation in 1988 and proceeded to turn the company's fortune around, particularly with the hiring of late-night talk-show host, David Letterman.

In 1995 Sir Howard left CBS to become chairman and CEO of Tele-TV, where he remained until 1997 before joining Sony as president of the company's American subsidiary.

Sir Howard Stringer - Credit: AFP

He was then appointed chairman and CEO in 2005, and in 2009 he became president. There, he greenlit, among many others, three Spider Man films, two Men in Black films, Crouching Tiger, DaVinci Code, Sleepless in Seattle, and acquired the James Bond franchise to include Casino Royale and Skyfall.

In 2012 Stringer stepped down and was elected chairman of the board of directors until he resigned from the company in 2013.

During his life, he has also been the recipient of many awards, including several honorary doctorates and a British knighthood in 1999.

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