(Photo courtesy of The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia)
It’s another loss for Philly’s civic community: Philanthropist H.L. “Gerry” Lenfest died on Sunday after months of declining health, according to Philly.com. He was 88.
The cable television magnate sold his company, Lenfest Communications Inc., in 2000 and spent the rest of his life giving away his fortune — over $1.3 billion, much of which has been directed at organizations benefitting arts and culture, high-risk youth and universities in the Philadelphia region.
Lenfest also purchased Philadelphia Media Network (PMN), including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, in 2014. Then in 2016, he established the the Institute for Journalism in New Media, now called the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, to which he donated PMN so the company could benefit from grant funding dedicated to public interest media projects.
The Philadelphia Foundation operates a special assets fund that manages the institute. President and CEO Pedro Ramos said in a statement: “Gerry Lenfest was and will be remembered as one of Philadelphia’s greatest citizens, and one of America’s great philanthropists.”
Philly.com published a thorough multimedia obituary featuring interviews with the likes of former Gov. Ed Rendell, Philadelphia Museum of Art President and COO Gail Harrity and Comcast Corporation CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts, as well as a list of his biggest philanthropic donations, on Sunday.
Generocity profiled Lenfest’s protégé, Keith Leaphart, in 2016, charting his rise from small business owner to doctor to wannabe politician to philanthropist; Leaphart has been chairing the board of the Lenfest Foundation since 2013, a position handed down by Lenfest directly.
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Here’s his Philly.com testimony on Lenfest’s legacy:
Watch to the end, when Leaphart makes a call for area affluents to follow in Lenfest’s footsteps:
“We have wealth in the region. But others who are in the region who are as wealthy, who have succeeded him, who are currently on the rise — [I wish] that they would adopt his approach of connecting with people … stepping in, not sitting on the sidelines, using their brands and the leverage that they have to lead [as] philanthropists. We need that as a city.”
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