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The Honorable Leonore Annenberg
March 17, 2009, Volume 55, No. 25

The Honorable Leonore Annenberg

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Annenberg, Leonore

The Hon. Leonore Annenberg, Penn Trustee Emerita, died March 12 at the age of 91, at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Penn Trustee Chairman James Riepe announced, “It is with great sorrow that we inform you of the death of Leonore Annenberg, H’85, Emeritus Trustee and founding member of the Joint Committee of the Trustees of the Annenberg School for Communication, and for decades one of Penn’s most committed and supportive friends.

“A Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, Lee brought to her role as a trustee the same style and sensitivity that benefited our country when she was Chief of Protocol of the United States, a position that carries the rank of Ambassador.  Remarkably, Lee was associated with the University—her adopted alma mater—for over 40 years, providing extraordinary leadership and invaluable counsel. Her appreciation and support of excellence in education, as in the arts, inspired Penn to strive toward ever greater distinction. As individuals, we will miss her grace, determination and most important, her friendship. As an institution, Penn will miss her profound dedication to education and citizenship, and her willingness to commit her resources to support those ideals. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Lee’s family and many friends.” 

“First elected as a Term Trustee in 1982, Lee’s insight and effectiveness were recognized by her colleagues when she was elected a life trustee in 1987. The following year, Lee was designated Trustee Emerita, the first woman selected for that honor. She applied her expertise and knowledge of the media and of government to her role on the External Affairs Committee, and was always ready to lend her counsel on issues ranging from facilities and campus planning, to development, to neighborhood initiatives. Penn recognized her contribution to the University with an honorary degree in 1985 and the University of Pennsylvania Medal for Distinguished Achievement in 1994.”

She and her late husband, Ambassador Walter Annenberg, W’31, H’66, (Almanac October 8, 2002) were dedicated benefactors whose extraordinary financial contributions transformed Penn. “The impact of their generosity is beyond measure,” added President Gutmann.  In 1958, they founded the Annenberg School for Communication. In 1993, they provided a permanent endowment for the School and created the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) with a $120 million gift—the largest in Penn’s history (Almanac July 13, 1993). The Foundation established the Institute for Adolescent Risk Communication, the Annenberg Institute for the Study of Democratic Institutions and Government, and in 2002, established a special operating trust of $100 million for continued support for the Annenberg School for Communication and the Annenberg Public Policy Center (Almanac September 24, 2002). In 2008, she endowed the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics in the Center with a gift of $20 million from the Annenberg Foundation. A new building to house the Center, funded by the Annenberg Foundation and Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, is scheduled for completion in June (Almanac November 2, 2004).

The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts was named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Annenberg in 1970. The Annenbergs were also instrumental in founding what is now the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, the only institution in the world devoted exclusively to post-doctoral research on Jewish civilization (Almanac November 3, 1992).

Mrs. Annenberg was a strong advocate for increasing access to education and the Annenberg Foundation established the Annenberg Scholars at Penn to provide scholarships for undergraduate students. In 2007, it established educational opportunities for children through the Leonore Annenberg Scholarships and the Leonore Annenberg Cultural Enrichment Fund for Talented Students and the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children.

The Annenbergs established 24 professorships at Penn, primarily in the School of Arts and Sciences, but also in the Annenberg School and the Schools of Dental Medicine, Medicine and Law. She also established the Leonore Annenberg University Professorship as part of the Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) initiative.

The Annenberg’s legacy “will continue at Penn in the many wonderful programs they established and in all the individuals whose lives they touched,” Dr. Gutmann added.

In the years since the death of her husband, Mrs. Annenberg served as President of the Annenberg Foundation and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. The programs of the Trust are administered through the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University.

Active in cultural affairs, she was a trustee emerita of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an advisory member of its Acquisitions Committee. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a former member of the Trustees’ Council of the National Gallery of Art, a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera, a trustee of the American Associates of the Royal Academy Trust, past president and honorary trustee of the Palm Desert Museum, founder of the American Friends of Covent Garden, honorary president of the American Friends of the British Museum, and chairman emeritus of the Foundation of Art and Preservation in Embassies. In addition, she was past president and an honorary trustee of the Performing Arts Council of the Los Angeles Music Center. She was a former member of the boards of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, a charter member of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s International Council, and a member of the Academy of Music Committee.

Mrs. Annenberg was recognized the world over for her impact on education, the arts, and society. She received the Cavaliere dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 1961, the Grand Officio Order of Orange-Nassau from the Netherlands in 1981, the Wagner Medal for Public Service from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, the Colonial Williamsburg Churchill Bell Award, the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1992, the Crystal Award from the Union League of Philadelphia in 2001, the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2001, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Lighting the Way Award from the Governor and Mrs. Edward Rendell, the Pat Nixon Ambassador of Good Will Award in 2002, the United Nations Association Global Leadership Award in 2005, and the Philadelphia Award in 2006.

Mrs. Annenberg is survived by her sister, Mrs. Frank Wolf; two daughters, Diane Deshong and Elizabeth Kabler; one stepdaughter, Wallis Annenberg; seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

There will be a private family service. The family asks that in lieu of flowers individuals make a donation to their favorite charity.


Related: Deaths

Almanac - March 17, 2009, Volume 55, No. 25