Philadelphia lost another civic giant this week with the passing of H.F. Gerry Lenfest, who died last Sunday at the age of 88. Reflecting on his life and legacy, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Philadelphia of today without the incomparable leadership and largesse of Gerry Lenfest. The businessman and entrepreneur turned philanthropist extraordinaire ranks among the city’s most highly-respected and influential civic leaders, and the philanthropic path he blazed with his wife Marguerite will certainly have a profound impact on the fabric of our city for decades to come.
The Lenfests became wealthy from the sale of their cable business in 2000, and were among a new breed of donors whose mission was to give away the vast majority of their fortune during their lifetime. In less than 20 years, the couple‘s giving has exceeded $1.3 billion. While the Lenfest’s philanthropy touched on a range of issues, Gerry is perhaps best known in Philadelphia for his financial support and leadership of some of the city’s major arts and cultural institutions, including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Curtis Institute of Music, The Barnes Foundation, and the Museum of the American Revolution. His giving also made headlines recently when he purchased Philadelphia Media Network (owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News and Philly.com) and donated it to a newly-created nonprofit, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the first-of-its-kind organization dedicated to developing and supporting sustainable business models for great local journalism.
In addition to establishing The Lenfest Foundation, the couple also created a philanthropic legacy for the next generation by endowing foundations for their three children – Diane, Chase and Brook. Last year the Lenfests joined a distinguished roster of donors to be honored with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The award citation noted their innate modesty and hailed them for embodying the essence of generosity, altruism, and dedication to the common good.
A public celebration to honor Gerry Lenfest is being planned for the fall at the Academy of Music.
Read more about the incredible life and legacy of Gerry Lenfest: