As patrons and major supporters of the arts in Philadelphia, Marguerite and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest are used to giving ovations. Tuesday afternoon they received one at a tony luncheon at the New York Public Library as they and seven other recipients accepted the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.
The national honor is awarded every two years to philanthropists who have made a significant impact. Past recipients include Brooke Astor, the Rockefeller and Gates families, and Michael Bloomberg, along with Philadelphia’s Annenberg, Pew, and Haas families. …
In the past dozen and a half years, the Lenfests have distributed more than $1.2 billion to arts and culture, education, social services, and other charitable causes. Major recipients include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the Curtis Institute of Music. Most recently, Gerry Lenfest has acquired, donated, and endowed the media company that publishes the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com. …
Gerry Lenfest said author Waldemar A. Nielsen was also his guide [in addition to Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth], from whom he took three tenets. The first: “Don’t create the foundation in perpetuity. What’s important at the time can be unimportant later in life.”
Second, he said, “was to have professional manager of your foundation.”
“The third…is never have a family foundation. What brings a family together so often sets it apart. We have three children. Each has their own foundation. I don’t sit on the board, and they all do fantastic work.”
I’ve written about the Lenfests in the past, particularly after their gift of the Philadelphia Media Network. Their impact in Philadelphia is incredible, all the more so for the relatively short span of time they’ve had to do what they’ve done philanthropically—barely more than 15 years.