What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul. Sunny Varkey’s life’s ambition is carving prodigies out of young minds. GEMS Education, one of the most pre-eminent names among private school operators throughout the globe is today moulding 1,10,000 lives under 100 roofs across 11 countries. He never would have foreseen such an impact back in 1980 when the genesis of his dream was conceived in the form of “Our Own English High School” – his first ever school in Dubai. From that day to today, his journey has seen multi-fold growth. Sunny Varkey believes passionately that education is the most important issue in the world today because of the effect it can have in reducing conflict, prejudice, poverty and intolerance.
Gems Education is the largest kindergarten-to-Grade-12 private education provider in the world. Unlike a lot of leaders, his actions speak out louder than his words. Committed as he is towards his dreams, through his dynamic leadership and business acumen, Gems students, parents, teaching staff and corporate staff, over the past 50 years, have raised over $40 million for charities around the world. In 2007, Sunny Varkey pledged $30 million to Dubai Cares, a Dubai-based charity focussed on providing education to primary school children. Also in 2012, he was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in recognition for his contribution to forging innovative public-private partnerships to ensure that underprivileged children across the world receive a good quality education.
His awards and accolades have been numerous. He was honoured by the Government of India for his contributions to education with the Padma Shri Award. The award is one of the highest civilian honours of the country. In 2002, he was named one of the top 50 Non-Resident Indians in the world. In 2012, Sunny Varkey was awarded an honorary degree (Doctor of the University) by Heriot-Watt University, in recognition of his contribution and achievements in the development and accessibility of education internationally.
The Varkey GEMS Foundation he founded is a not-for-profit organisation and the honorary chairman is former US President Bill Clinton. The foundation aims to impact 100 underprivileged children for every student enrolled in a GEMS school. GEMS Education today employs over 11,000 teachers, specialists and other staff in 11 countries of the world.