Biography of Sir Alexander Stone
Sir Alexander Stone was born in 1907. His Russian-born parents were driven out of their native land by a Cossack pogrom and arrived in Glasgow in 1903 with few possessions and little money. They settled in the Gorbals area of Glasgow with other Jewish immigrant families.
After attending Hutchesons’ Boys’ Grammar School in Crown Street, Alexander Stone went into the family’s furniture business as a salesman and auctioneer. Aged 25, he decided to study law at the University of Glasgow and in 1935 he founded his own law firm, Alexander Stone and Co. He quickly established himself as a brilliant and highly successful lawyer and developed a particular interest in corporate law. In 1956 he embarked on a career in banking, having acquired the British Bank of Commerce, a small London merchant bank with four employees and capital of £10,000. So successful was this enterprise that, when it went public in 1967, the bank had 125 employees and capital assets totalling £40m.
During 1973 the public lost its confidence in subsidiary banks and this resulted in the sale of the British Bank of Commerce and the loss of a personal fortune. However, quite remarkably, in 1980, at the age of 73, Alexander Stone set up a second merchant bank, Combined Capital Ltd, in Glasgow’s Renfield Street. This was wholly owned by the Alexander Stone Foundation and most of the profits were donated to West of Scotland charities concerned with education, the arts, the relief of poverty and distress. Among many gifts and endowments, he funded a new building in the microbiology department at the University of Glasgow; he endowed various scholarships to encourage people seeking careers in law; he established chairs in commercial law and in business law and practice at the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde respectively. The Alexander Stone Chair in Commercial Law was founded in 1985. His belief in the skill of oratory led to his sponsoring a lectureship in rhetoric in 1978 and in 1982 the Stone Lectureship Committee appointed two Stone Fellows in Bibliophily, to carry out research in their chosen field and provide seminars and lectures.
A keen collector of rare books, Stone donated a collection of around 600 volumes to the University Library. The collections consist mainly of nineteenth century publications and are particularly strong in the fields of English Literature and Scottish history.
Since his death in 1998, Lady Stone has generously continued to support by giving in Sir Alexander’s memory.
Sir Alexander Stone has had two buildings at the University of Glasgow named after him. Sir Alexander Stone funded the construction of the Alexander Stone Building (Garscube Estate) which opened at Garscube in 1976 and housed the Department of Microbiology which was then taken over by the Departments of Medical and Radiation Oncology. The building also housed the Beatson laboratories. The building was demolished in 2011 having been replaced by the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre (WWCRC) which opened in 2014. There is a plaque in the WWCRC that recognizes Sir Alexander Stone. In the 2000s the Modern Languages Building, located at 16 University Gardens, was renamed the Sir Alexander Stone Building. It houses the School of Law and the College of Arts.