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The Board of Trustees and the staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art today mourn the passing of Leonore Annenberg, among the great philanthropists and public servants of her era and a devoted Trustee of the Museum since 1954.
“Leonore Annenberg was an extraordinary model of civic duty and selfless devotion, sharing with her late husband Ambassador Walter Annenberg an exceptional commitment to the idea of education and culture for all, and giving unparalleled support to the arts, the city, and the region,” said H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “I had great respect for Walter Annenberg, who gave me my start in business. But I had a special place in my heart for Lee Annenberg, for her grace, her intelligence, her impeccable taste, and her caring for so many worthwhile causes. She will live a long time in our memories. Philadelphia was indeed fortunate: In the history of the city, they were the lead philanthropists. They supported so many causes, so fully and in such an enlightened way.”
Mrs. Annenberg was, for nearly six decades, an exceptionally generous supporter of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which dedicated The Annenberg Galleries of European Art on the Museum’s first floor in honor of the couple in 1994. A graduate of Stanford University, Leonore Annenberg joined the Museum’s Board of Governors in 1954 and served as a Trustee since 1964. She also served on the Steering Committee of the Museum’s Landmark Renewal Fund (completed in 1995), a successful capital campaign that funded the comprehensive renovation and reinstallation of the Museum’s European collections, which were especially beloved by Mrs. Annenberg. She was the Honorary Chair of the Museum’s 125th Anniversary Gala and hosted a group of ambassadors and foreign dignitaries at the Museum to commemorate the Museum’s birth as an outgrowth of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876.
Mrs. Annenberg was a former White House Chief of Protocol and served on The Committee for the Preservation of the White House. She spent most of her life working to enhance cultural appreciation and has served as a trustee of many important cultural organizations. She was a member of the distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was also a former member of the boards of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and The Philadelphia Orchestra Association and a Charter Member of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s International Council and served as a member of the Academy of Music Committee. Mrs. Annenberg received honorary degrees from LaSalle University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University, among others. She received many awards for public service and, in 2001, was the first recipient of the Crystal Award, presented to her by the Union League of Philadelphia for her contributions to the arts and the humanities. She was the recipient of the Philadelphia Award in 2006.
Along with her husband, Mrs. Annenberg enabled the Museum to achieve significant milestones during her Trusteeship. The couple contributed generously, including gifts totaling $25 million to enable the Museum to create endowments for acquisitions and to fund exhibitions, such as the current Cezanne and Beyond, among others, as well as funds to support the digital initiative to make the collections available online to a broad and diverse audience, and funds to support the Museum’s endowment. In 2006, with a lead gift of $10 million, Mrs. Annenberg energized the campaign to keep Thomas Eakins’s masterpiece, The Gross Clinic, in Philadelphia. Her generosity and devotion to this cause spurred the successful fundraising drive that enabled the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art to share ownership of the painting and preserve in Philadelphia, for posterity, one of the city’s greatest treasures.
"Lee Annenberg’s extraordinary support for the Museum was wide reaching, and always went right to the heart of the museum’s mission," the Museum's Interim Director Gail Harrity said. "She had a profound commitment to education and created endowments to acquire works of art and fund exhibitions such as Cezanne and Beyond. She also manifested the extraordinary warmth of a wonderful human being. She had this marvelous personal touch, and an exquisite attention to detail. It is reflected in the stories the staff still tell about Lee making sure there were fresh cut peonies for the Queen’s visit in 1976, and it was always reflected in the utter delight she took in celebrating the triumph of the Museum’s great exhibitions.”