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The Honorable Walter H. Annenberg


A Lasting Legacy

The Hon. Walter H. Annenberg, W '31, H '66, Penn Trustee Emeritus, philanthropist, patron of the arts, and former ambassador, died of pneumonia at his home in Wynnewood, October 1 at the age of 94.

President Judith Rodin said, "We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Walter Annenberg. Walter was one of our nation's greatest philanthropists, who embodied the belief that those fortunate enough to acquire great wealth are obligated to use it for the good of society. Walter was a great believer in the importance of education and demonstrated this over and over again through his incredibly generous contributions to Penn and other educational institutions.

"His support for Penn's Annenberg School for Communication demonstrated his keen appreciation for the critical role the mass media plays in our society and the need to study and understand the impact the media have on our lives. He was a tremendous friend and advisor to Penn, and he will be greatly missed."

After graduating from the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., Walter Annenberg attended the Wharton School before joining his family's publishing business in Philadelphia. In 1940 he became president of Triangle Publications--which included The Philadelphia Inquirer. He later became chairman of the board. He founded Seventeen magazine in 1944 and TV Guide in 1953 and bought radio and television stations. In 1957 he bought The Daily News.

In 1958 he gave Penn $3 million to create the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn as a memorial to his father Moses L. Annenberg, and in 1970 he gave $2.1 million to build the Annenberg Center, located adjacent to the school. He also founded the Annenberg School for Communication at USC in 1971.

Initially elected to Penn's Board of Trustees in 1960 and again in 1965, he resigned from the board of Penn and other institutions in 1969 upon his appointment as ambassador. He served as ambassador to the Court of St. James, Great Britain from 1968-74. Upon his return to the states, he was once again elected to Penn's board in 1974. He was designated a trustee emeritus in 1978. Penn conferred an honorary doctor of laws on him in 1966.

As the Annenberg School of Communications marked its 25th anniversary of its founding, a gala celebration was held in May 1984 at which an Award of Merit was given to Pennsylania-born actor James Stuart and then in a surprise tribute, Awards of Merit were given to both the Hon. Leonore and the Hon. Walter Annenberg.

The Annenbergs' major gifts to Penn go back farther than Penn's record-keeping which began in the 1960s, and continued for more than half a century. They endowed three chairs in SAS--in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences--as part of the Program for the Eighties. In the late sixties, when Penn had not yet broken the million-dollar barrier, Mr. Annenberg anonymously announced that he would match dollar-for-dollar his fellow donors' increases in annual giving. The anonymous "Mr. Pennsylvania" raised the Annual Giving Program total from $2 million to $2.6 million, a new high in Penn history. It has risen steadily ever since.

In 1989, he was believed to be the largest individual donor in Penn's history. He pledged $10 million to SAS for the history department, which gained four endowed chairs, eight fellowships, a visiting chair and a Humanities Fund to interact with other departments. Dr. Sheldon Hackney, then Penn's president, said of Walter Annenberg, "He is a visionary who has not only earned his own place in our country's history, but one who also shares our belief in history as an essential building block of education and as a discipline whose study prepares students to fulfill their obligations as free citizens."

He had also pledged $500,000 to endow the Gloria T. Chisum Fellowship, which annually supports a doctoral student of African-American descent in experimental psychology, biology, physiology or biochemistry. Then, later in 1989 he pledged yet another $10 million that provided $6.5 million for the Annenberg School and $3.5 million for SAS, raising his share of the $1 billion Campaign for Penn to $20.5 million. "The hundreds of students who received PhDs and MAs at the Annenberg School and the thousands whose lives they affect testify to the power of the Annenbergs' vision," said ASC Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

The Trustees of the University voted in 1993 to endow the deanship of the Annenberg School for Communication and name it in honor of the School's founder, the Hon. Walter H. Annenberg. The resolution which passed unanimously at the January 22, 1993 Stated Meeting cited his commitment to Penn, his service to his country, his humanitarian concerns, career in publishing, and resolved to endow, fund, and name the deanship and designate Dean Jamieson, the first incumbent of the named Deanship.

President Ronald Reagan awarded Ambassador Annenberg the nation's highest civilian honor in 1986, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, citing him for a "brilliant career in publishing, for his pioneering use of television for educational purposes, and for his devotion to the development of higher education."

Mr. Annenberg also received the first Alfred I. DuPont Award in 1951 "for new concepts in educational broadcasting, the Henry Johnson Fisher Award and the 1984 Publisher of the Year and the Ralph Lowell Award for distinguished service to public television. He was the only American to hold the post of Ambassador to Great Britain who was named a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire.

In the summer of 1993, at a Trustees' farewell dinner for Sheldon Hackney, Mr. Annenberg announced the largest gift ever given to Penn… the largest cash gift ever made to a university…his gift of $120 million to Penn, another $120 million to USC, $100 million to the Peddie School and $25 million to his son's alma mater, Harvard--a total of $365 million of the family foundation's $1.55 billion in assets. That monumental gift to Penn endowed the Annenberg School "into the 21st century and beyond," Dean Jamieson said and established an Annenberg Public Policy Center, headed by the dean. Dr. Hackney quipped that Mr. Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, have "done more for Penn than anyone since Benjamin Franklin."

In appreciation for all they have done for Penn, the Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg were given Penn's Medals for Distinguished Achievement, along with a scroll of appreciation signed by a thousand people from all walks of the University --at a dinner marking the end of the Campaign for Penn in 1994--making them the first to have received the Medal and honorary degrees from Penn.

The Hon. Walter Annenberg was presented with the American Assembly's 1994 Service to Democracy Award in October 1994 for "contributions to the nation." The American Assembly is a national, non-partisan public affairs forum founded in 1950, by former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his tenure as president of Columbia University.

In December 2000, a $25 million endowment from the Annenberg Foundation was given to establish a new Institute for Adolescent Risk Communication at Penn's Annenberg Public Policy Center and an additional $2.5 million to establish the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair for the Director of the Public Policy Center (Almanac December 19, 2000).

Then in another magnanimous move last month, the Annenberg Foundation announced endowments of $100 million for each of the Annenberg Schools of Communication, the one at Penn and the one at USC (Almanac September 24).

Mr. Annenberg is survived by his wife, the Hon. Leonore Annenberg, his daughter Wallis Annenberg, who directs the Los Angeles office of the Annenberg Foundation, two stepdaughters, Diane Deshong and Elizabeth Kabler, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and two sisters, Enid Haupt and Evelyn Hall.

  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 7, October 8, 2002