Joan Capuzzi Giresi
can rid one of lifes many annoyances. Among the peskiest of these,
perhaps, is waiting. Waiting for interest rates to
fall. Waiting for clothes to dry. For a table. A bargain.
Once, as the Honorable Walter H. Annenberg W31 Hon66 navigated
the steps of a medical building in Philadelphia on his way to a
doctors appointment, he noticed an elderly African- American woman
standing outside, lingering expectantly. He asked her if she needed
a ride somewhere, and she replied that she was waiting for a bus.
Leaving his appointment an hour later, Annenberg was dismayed to
see her standing there in the December chill, still waiting.
grabbed her arm and said, Were going to take you home, recalls
Annenbergs longtime chauffeur, Philip Howe.
As they drove the woman to her South Philadelphia home, chatting
along the way, it became clear that she had no idea who Annenbergpublisher,
ambassador, billionaire, art collector, philanthropistwas. He didnt
seem to care, says Howe. His only concern was easing the burden
for this woman, whose quiet plight probably had aroused no more
than a few anesthetized glances from the scores of doctors, nurses,
patients, and delivery people who had passed her. Somehow, as though
a fish could understand thirst, he understood her strugglehumanitys
eternal one to catch a bus, eat a meal, nourish a mind, just get
through life unmaimed and perhaps progress a little along the way.
was a man of passion, compassion, and action. A man of few words
and many deeds, said Dr. Vartan Gregorian Hon88, former Penn provost
and current president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, as
he eulogized Annenberg at a memorial service held a couple months
after his death on October 1 at the age of 94 [Obituaries, November/December].
He believed that with wealth comes responsibility. That from those
to whom much is given, much is expected.
A wise investor, driven businessman, and brilliant visionary, Annenberg
launched Seventeen magazine during the World War II years
and TV Guidethe most profitable weekly ever publishedin
1953. He rode the broadcast wave as well, building stations and
unveiling era-defining programs like American Bandstand.
By the time he sold the family business, Triangle Publications,
in the late 1980s, Annenberg had tacked three more zeros onto the
estate left to him by his millionaire father. With equal energy,
he then set about giving much of his money away.
In the course of his long life, Annenberg received numerous honorsincluding
the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian
honor, in 1986 and Penns Medal for Distinguished Achievement in
1994but according to Dr. Gail Levin Gr74, executive director of
the Annenberg Foundation, he felt that the highest compliment one
could receive was to be called a good citizen. An oft-repeated statement
Annenberg used when making gifts reads: It is the obligation
of those who have been fortunate in life to support those who are
less fortunate. And if you dont understand that, youre not very
much of a citizen.