About Leonore Annenberg
A STATEMENT BY VARTAN GREGORIAN, PRESIDENT, CARNEGIE CORPORATION OF NEW YORK
When one thinks of Leonore Annenberg, what comes immediately to mind is the presence of dignity, of refinement, taste, elegance, integrity and high standards—in short, the presence of a very classy person with a deep sense of civic commitment and social conscience. One thinks, as well, of her great generosity and her extraordinary kindness.
Along with her late husband, Ambassador Walter Annenberg, Leonore Annenberg believed that wealth carries with it responsibility and an obligation to one’s community, one’s society and one’s country. Indeed, both Ambassador and Mrs. Annenberg were great patriots, dedicated to the cause of democracy and of equal opportunity. Voicing sentiments that both he and his wife shared, Walter Annenberg once said, “My country has been very good to me. I must be good to my country.” Leonore and Walter Annenberg stood behind those convictions with a generosity that puts them in a league with John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. It is unlikely we will ever know the full extent of the Annenbergs’ philanthropy because they did not seek publicity for their gifts and gave many anonymously.
Mrs. Annenberg was a great patron of the fine arts, serving with distinction and dedication on the boards of such vital American institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After Ambassador Annenberg’s death, she assumed the presidency of the Annenberg Foundation and performed that role with care and dedication. The foundation’s work has benefited millions in California, Pennsylvania, New York, and across the nation, especially in the realms of education, communications, and public policy. Leonore Annenberg’s legacy includes the support of public television and public radio; many art exhibitions; free public broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera; scores of fellowships and scholarships; endowments of American universities including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, and Brown University; and, through support of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, increasing public understanding and appreciation for the meaning and relevance of our Constitution and promoting its study. It was the Annenberg Challenge, announced at the White House in 1993, and carried out under the leadership of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, that put public K-12 education on the top of the nation’s agenda.
While she was an ambassador for all that embodied the spirit and hope of America, her munificence was not confined to the United States but also encompassed the United Kingdom, where Walter Annenberg served as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James. During their tenure in England, Mrs. Annenberg brought her distinctive taste, style and elegance to the royal court and later, in Washington, D.C., served our country with the same tact and diplomacy in the capacity of Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador during the Reagan Administration. In 2001, it was the great honor of Carnegie Corporation of New York and its more than 20 sister Carnegie organizations established in the U.S. and abroad by Andrew Carnegie, to bestow upon Leonore and Walter Annenberg the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.
Leonore Annenberg’s life wove together the themes of art and education, culture and public service, knitting together a tapestry of honor, service and vision that put her nation and many others around the world deeply in her debt. It was a privilege to have this remarkable woman of grace, vision, passion and compassion as a friend. We will all feel her loss for a very long time because individuals who combine so many virtues are rare, indeed.