For his philanthropy that embodies the spirit of change, not charity and whose exceptional generosity is helping to realize equality and justice for all.
Gary Stewart's lifelong passion for music led to a 30-year career that took him from a part-time record store clerk to a reissue producer for Rhino Records and eventually to his current role at iTunes. Gary's obsession with unearthing hidden gems in pop culture led to a deep appreciation for artists trying to change or challenge the status quo, such as Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, and much of the 1970s punk movement that included the Clash, X, and The Jam.
At Rhino Records, Gary produced reissues and box sets of music by artists who influenced his record collection and his politics: The Neville Brothers, Elvis Costello, Otis Redding, and the acclaimed "Nuggets" collections of garage rock, among many others.
Educated, influenced, and spurred by the music industry's growing involvement in the anti-apartheid and anti-censorship movements and particularly affected by a confrontational/inspirational Billy Bragg show, Gary decided to put his politics into practice. He became directly involved in a number of organizations, by doing volunteer work for social service nonprofits such as Turning Point and Ocean Park Community Center, which were focused on L.A.'s growing homeless population.
Seeing the impact these organizations had, Gary expanded his progressive activities, supporting groups that helped increase grassroots political organizing and volunteering with Coalition 88, an organization that worked block-by-block and precinct-by-precinct to encourage residents to take collective action and join civic and electoral efforts in their communities.
At Rhino Records—a label renowned for its compilations of pop, rock ‘n roll, rhythm and blues, and comedy—Gary felt lucky to work at a company that endorsed and reflected his values. Rhino founders Richard Foos and Harold Bronson—influenced by the socially responsible business movement led by Ben & Jerry's and The Body Shop—tasked Gary with developing a social mission for Rhino, and with directing a team to create internal policies that reflected what the company considered its second bottom line: its commitment to the community. These policies included up to 40 hours per year of paid time off for employees to engage in volunteer activities, and a weekly voluntary employee payroll deduction that went to agencies providing homeless support services. Rhino also called attention to national nonprofit groups like Amnesty International and the National Coalition for the Homeless by including public service announcements on most of its box-sets, reissues, DVDs and other music and entertainment products.
While he was volunteering at Coalition 88, Gary met Michele Prichard, then Executive Director of Liberty Hill. She helped Gary shape Rhino Records' social mission and guide its philanthropy. Most significantly, during a 10-year period at Rhino, the company gave more than $2 million—equivalent to 2% of its pretax profits—to L.A.-based nonprofits involved in advocacy, service and activism. Rhino's dollars supported emerging grassroots organizations, such as the L.A. Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), the Community Coalition and the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), which were tackling issues of poverty and racial inequality with creative and effective proposals to change government, school policies, and business practices.
In 1993, Gary was invited to join Liberty Hill's board where he accessed his network of personal and professional contacts to support the organization's activities. He opened his house, wallet, and Rolodex to host fundraisers and recruit donors, board members and volunteers, corralling them to attend Liberty Hill van tours, house parties and panels, and plying them with pop culture CD box-sets, all the while continuing to press Rhino to further its social mission. Working with Liberty Hill, Gary was exposed to issues, leaders, and organizations throughout Los Angeles and helped bring friends in as donors and event supporters.
Through these efforts and many others, Gary has become someone who not only contributes his time and resources to causes, but also works to convince, cajole, and occasionally inspire others to do the same. He continues to support organizations working on a range of issues, such as immigrant rights, living wages, gay and lesbian rights, and increasing access to college prep classes for low-income students. His volunteer activities also include his efforts to persuade nearly everyone he meets to watch "The Wire."