2017 William E. Simon Prize recipients
Pitt and Barbara Hyde were celebrated on October 27 during a special luncheon in Scottsdale, Arizona at The Philanthropy Roundtable's 2017 Annual Meeting. Honoring the ideals and principles that guided Mr. Simon's giving, the Simon Prize personifies the ideals of personal responsibility, resourcefulness, volunteerism, scholarship, individual freedom, faith in God, and helping people to help themselves.
J.R. "Pitt" Hyde III and his wife, Barbara, epitomize three great American traditions: family business ownership, entrepreneurial leadership, and community giving. From the wholesale grocery business Malone & Hyde, to the creation of Fortune 500 company AutoZone, to involvement in professional sports, education reform, and cultural and civic engagement, the Hydes continue to leave a mark on their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and across the U.S.
Born and raised in Memphis, Pitt began his career in the business founded by his grandfather, eventually making Malone & Hyde the third-largest grocery wholesaler and becoming the youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. After selling the company in 1988 to focus on his new venture, AutoZone, Pitt went on to grow the chain into a national brand before retiring in 1997.
Pitt continued to be active in business, becoming a major investor in the Memphis biopharmaceutical firm, GTx, and founded the nonprofit Memphis BioWorks Foundation. He and Barbara also became part owners of the Memphis Grizzlies NBA franchise, which increased the city's national profile as a major cultural and entertainment destination.
With the creation of the Hyde Family Foundation, Pitt and Barbara have been able to translate their passion for transforming education, strengthening neighborhoods, and promoting Memphis' cultural, civic and environmental assets into tangible results.
In education, the Hydes support Shelby County Schools, public charter schools like KIPP: Memphis, parochial and private schools. "Competition is important, and a big part of our focus has been on expanding options and opportunities for children and families in Memphis. We are agnostic to model and strive to invest in schools that are delivering strong results for kids," says Barbara. To boost high caliber teaching and talent, the Hydes provided early support for what is now the Memphis Education Fund, a unified community of school networks, human capital groups, and activists committed to improving the bottom ten percent of public schools in Shelby County. The Hydes have also been notably generous to Memphis' Jubilee Catholic Schools, supporting the effort known as the "Memphis miracle," the reopening of previously shuttered Catholic schools serving disadvantaged children.
Pitt and Barbara have given both their time and money to attract talent and entrepreneurs to Memphis, making it a magnet for human capital, while also strengthening the city's "authentic assets" such as its urban parks, music and art institutions, and museums—including the National Civil Rights Museum. They have demonstrated how locally-focused funders can transform their hometown, inspiring philanthropists across America to be creative in how they put their wealth to work.
Previous winners of the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership include Bruce and Suzie Kovner, David Weekley, Jon Huntsman Sr., Eli and Edythe Broad, Bernie Marcus, Charles Koch, Roger Hertog, Phil and Nancy Anschutz, Rich and Helen DeVos, Dr. Ben Carson, the late Sir John Templeton, and the late John Walton. The prize includes a $250,000 award which will be donated to a charity of the Hydes' choice.