Leonore Annenberg honored in memorial service at Academy of Music
September 25, 2009, 6:59 am · Updated September 25, 2009, 12:00 am·
Last night, some of Philadelphia's biggest names came out to honor the life and philanthropy of Leonore Annenberg, one of Penn's single most dedicated donors. Annenberg died March 12 at the age of 91.
Over 1,400 guests attended the memorial at the Academy of Music yesterday, including retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Penn President Amy Gutmann. The event was organized by the Leonore Annenberg Tribute Committee.
Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Kathleen Hall Jamieson created a photo montage documenting Annenberg's contributions, which played throughout the event.
But particularly, Jamieson stressed in an interview that Annenberg "just loved the students."
"You could tell that she took enormous pleasure knowing these students benefited from her work here," she added.
Annenberg, and her husband, Walter Annenberg, donated over $300 million to Penn during their lifetimes, including $40 million for the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which opens Nov. 4.
Annenberg also served on Penn's Board of Trustees, supported numerous local artistic projects and participated in national diplomacy in Washington, D.C., California and the United Kingdom.
"She had quite the life," Jamieson said. "The Leonore Annenberg Memorial was a way for the community to celebrate that life."
During the memorial, several political and literary figures as well as friends of Annenberg herself paid tribute to her diverse contributions. Some spoke about her as an art patron, while others highlighted her political and educational projects. The speeches were mixed in with performances from the Philadelphia Orchestra.
"Lee was forever young and ageless," NBC Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell told the audience. "Her legacy will certainly live on in the educational institutions she benefited."
College senior Rachel Weisel, who is Jamieson's assistant at Annenberg escorted Gutmann at the event.
"It's an honor to participate in such a major occasion," Weisel said. "And though I didn't have the privilege to meet Lee, I can experience her contributions as an Annenberg research student."
Gerry Lenfest, the Tribute Committee Chair, said he hoped the event would inspire other humanitarians to follow in the Annenbergs' footsteps.
"Today, she's smiling down on us," Jamieson said. "She's smiling down and probably saying, 'Well isn't that lovely.'"