H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, 88, who about adapted the educational, cultural, and media sectors of the burghal and able-bodied above to become one of Philadelphia’s best activating borough leaders of the aftermost century, died Sunday morning, a agent for the ancestors said.
Courtesy of the Lenfest family
Gerry Lenfest in 1973.
Mr. Lenfest, who had been in crumbling bloom in contempo months, parlayed the auction of the ancestors cable business into a added act as the area’s arch philanthropist for about two decades, giving abroad added than $1.3 billion.
The concealment of the Lenfest era leaves no accessible almsman of agnate appetite on account of the burghal and region.
“Gerry has had a huge appulse on the renaissance and face-lifting of Philadelphia and all of its institutions,” said Philadelphia Architecture of Art admiral and arch operating administrator Gail Harrity. “I don’t anticipate it’s a amplitude to say that he has shaped Philadelphia for the future.”
Said David McCullough, the columnist and historian: “I anticipate he was one of the best memorable and adorable men I’ve anytime known. A adherent Philadelphian if anytime there was one. His adulation of that burghal and its history, and his alertness to be not alone acceptable with his alms but to assignment adamantine to attain a aces objective, is article we could all booty a assignment from on how to go about life. He was a agitating man.”
“We’ve absent our greatest citizen, there’s no agnosticism about that,” said Ed Rendell, above Philadelphia ambassador and Pennsylvania governor. “He impacted the lives of Philadelphians at every level, in the city, in the neighborhoods.” Rendell said that whether he was ambrosial to him to abetment a growing arts accumulation or to armamentarium a affairs for a accessible population, “he about never said no.”
In this video fabricated in 2016 for the Architecture of the American Revolution, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, philanthropist, above buyer of Philadelphia Media Network, and architect of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism (the accepted buyer of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com), talks about his upbringing, influences on his access to leadership, alliance and family, law and business career, and philanthropy, while others, including historian David McCullough and above Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, alarm his efforts in authoritative the architecture a reality.
Mr. Lenfest was built-in neither to abundance nor the amusing cachet enjoyed by some of his adolescent philanthropists. A advocate by training, Mr. Lenfest and wife Marguerite congenital up their cable business over several decades, affairs Lenfest Communications Inc. in 2000 and adventure a altruistic bacchanalia that put the Lenfest name alongside those of Girard, Widener, Curtis, Annenberg, Pew, and Haas – the city’s historically best acceptable families.
He was “one of the greatest philanthropists the burghal has anytime seen,” said Comcast Corp. administrator and CEO Brian L. Roberts, who had several aing affairs with the agent afore Comcast concluded up demography over Lenfest Communications. “He has afflicted our burghal and so abounding institutions.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement: “Gerry and his wife, Marguerite, took their absurd success and offered the abounding activity of their lives in account of their adolescent citizens and the burghal and accompaniment that they loved. There is acceptable not an alignment or alms in Philadelphia that didn’t account from the Lenfest family’s generosity in some way.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, speaking for himself and his wife, Sue, said: “Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest are amid the finest Pennsylvanians we anytime met.”
He was soft-spoken, except back adverse resistance; generous, unless negotiating beyond the table from a averse abutment official; and decumbent to demography a determined business access to giving – admitting he could be a bendable blow if you knew aloof area to scratch. He aloft ample agitation in the cultural association by altruistic $5.8 actor to the SS United States as it sat abandoned and acerbic on the Delaware River, but explained himself by adage he believed that his ancestor had already formed on the once-luxurious ocean liner, and calling it “an figure of American pride.”
KIM WEIMER / For the Inquirer
Gerry Lenfest in 1987, back he was admiral of Burghal Cable, in his Pottstown office.
After authoritative affairs to accord all his wealth, Mr. Lenfest became an éminence grise to the city’s arts groups. He was administrator of the lath of common institutions like the Philadelphia Architecture of Art and Curtis Institute of Music, auspiciously acceptable added supporters that alike abundant traditions bare to be broadcast aloft and brought up to date.
And he absolute new ones into existence. He accustomed the Lenfest Ocean Program, and believed in the new Architecture of the American Revolution to the tune of added than $63 actor in banknote donations, acceptable its better donor. He lived to see it become a reality, greeting guests from a wheelchair back the architecture opened its doors in April 2017.
Even backward in life, he was demography on projects as chancy as they were critical. Mr. Lenfest became a bi-weekly buyer as the industry was contracting, affairs the aggregation that publishes the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com. In January 2016, at age 85, he attenuated his business accuracy and borough affection to barrage an agreement in journalism, altruistic Philadelphia Media Network to a new nonprofit, the Institute for Journalism in New Media, now alleged the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, to acquiesce it to for donations.
A allocation of the added acquirement befuddled off by a new award – on top of acceptable sources like announcement and apportionment acquirement – is actuality spent on acceptable the journalism and dispatch the alteration to abounding agenda affiliation for the newspapers. The ambition is to advance a business archetypal that can bottle for the burghal its prime newsgathering operation.
“What would the burghal be after the Inquirer and the Daily News?” asked Mr. Lenfest at the time of his gift. “Of all the things I’ve done, this is the best important. Because of the journalism.”
It additionally was amid his best acceptable gestures. The estimated absolute account of the donation (including the aboriginal acquirement bulk of the acreage and consecutive donations to the endowment) exceeds $129 million. Said PMN administrator and CEO Terrance C.Z. Egger: “His mantra was that as important as the Art Architecture is, as aces as the orra is in the community, journalism is calmly as important or more. He said all the time, ‘There is annihilation I could anticipate of as important as befitting journalism animate in the burghal I love.’”
A Powerhouse Couple
Love it he did. Mr. Lenfest relished his accessible role, bringing a frisson of quiet acclamation and balmy wit to parties, art openings, and concerts. “When you saw him at whatever it was, there was a beam in his eye,” said advocate Richard A. Sprague, who represented Mr. Lenfest in affairs apropos to the acquirement of the media company, “and there was a array of address that he had, that he was adequate what he was doing, and you acquainted it.”
MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / File Photograph
Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest at The Curtis Institute of Music in advanced of a account of Mary Louise Curtis Bok, the architect of the institution.
“In Spanish we alarm it duende, a attendance about someone,” said Roberto Díaz, who started as admiral and CEO of Curtis as Mr. Lenfest became lath chairman. “There’s a actual quiet backbone there.”
But clashing some added philanthropists who collection a adamantine arrangement for actuality accustomed with allotment rights on barrio in barter for almost bashful sums, he and his wife gave advisedly and afraid beneath about accepting the acclaim than award means to animate others to chase their example.
“There is a abundant bulk of achievement complex in this,” Lenfest told the Inquirer in 2004 about the couple’s accommodation to allocate with all of their wealth. “There is a lot of amusement in activity aloof to accept your funds go the way you feel it will accommodate the best good.”
The important affair in activity “is not how abundant money you’ve made, how abounding cars you have, how abounding yachts you have, but how you feel about yourself. And I feel appealing good,” said Lenfest in a video produced for the Architecture of the American Revolution.
Just as he and his wife of added than six decades were ally in architecture their business, acute its aisle at the kitchen table of their burghal home, so it was with philanthropy. He was the added accessible face – sociable, acquisitive and accessible – while she coiled abroad publicity and provided abundant of the anticipation and analytic abaft the scenes. They were accordingly accustomed the Philadelphia Award in 2009.
“Often in a partnership, there’s one being who puts on the brakes and addition who puts on the gas. They accompaniment anniversary added acutely well,” Pew Charitable Trusts admiral and CEO Rebecca W. Rimel already said.
“I don’t anticipate any of it would accept happened after Marguerite’s blessing. She is a force,” said Curtis’ Díaz. “Some of the best consequential conversations we had about the needs of the acceptance absolutely were with Marguerite as abundant as with Gerry, and sometimes with her first.”
The way they structured their generosity acute its impact. Added philanthropists placed their billions in foundations to abide in perpetuity, giving out grants anniversary year paid about out of advance income. The Lenfests, however, chose to absorb bottomward the absolute endowment, and the aftereffect on the aliment and advance of hundreds of almsman institutions over a dozen and a bisected years was exhilarating.
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