Walter and Leonore Annenberg were extraordinary philanthropists, designating more than $3 billion in grants and gifts to major research universities, hospitals, medical centers, public schools, and cultural and civic organizations.
During their more than 50-year marriage, the Annenbergs assembled one of the world's finest privately-held collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, which they donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they are on permanent display.
Upon Ambassador Annenberg's death in 2002, Mrs. Annenberg assumed leadership of The Annenberg Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. Under her direction, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands began construction of the Sunnylands Center & Gardens and developed award-winning programming on the Constitution and adolescent mental health.
Walter H. Annenberg was born in 1908 and enjoyed a distinguished career as a publisher, broadcaster, and diplomat. He graduated from the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey and attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He entered the family business, Triangle Publications, becoming president in 1940 and, subsequently, chairman of the board. Among Triangle's holdings were The Philadelphia Inquirer, Seventeen, and TV Guide, which Mr. Annenberg founded in 1953. The radio-TV division of Triangle grew to include six AM and six FM radio stations, as well as six TV stations, including Philadelphia's WFIL-TV, home of the popular and trend-setting American Bandstand and a series of educational programs that ran for more than a decade.
During the Nixon administration, Mr. Annenberg served from 1969 to 1974 as Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, Great Britain. Leonore, a graduate of Stanford University, served at her husband's side, overseeing the renovation of the U.S. ambassador's residence, Winfield House, a project the Annenbergs funded. While in London, Mrs. Annenberg also founded the American Friends of Covent Garden.
In 1951, Walter Annenberg won the prestigious Alfred I. duPont Award for pioneering education via television. In 1983, he received the Ralph Lowell Medal for his "outstanding contribution to public television." Other honors include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Linus Pauling Medal for Humanitarianism, and the National Medal of Arts, which he shared with Leonore.
Leonore Annenberg, like her husband, played a major role in public service. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed her Chief of Protocol. Mrs. Annenberg served as chairman emeritus of the Foundation of Art and Preservation in Embassies, a private non-profit, non-partisan foundation established to assist the United States Department of State in procuring and maintaining fine and decorative art for United States embassies, chanceries, and ambassadorial residences. She was a member of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House among many other boards and committees. Her philanthropic efforts earned her the Philadelphia Award and the Wagner Medal for Public Service, among other honors.