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Commu​nal Leader, Dies at 91

March 12, 2009
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Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg, philanthropist, committed communal leader and onetime U.S. chief of protocol whose late husband was Philadelphia publishing magnate Walter Annenberg, died March 12 at the age of 91.

She was surrounded by family at the time of her death of natural causes at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

With her late husband, Mrs. Annenberg was responsible for committing hundreds of millions of dollars to diverse charities and arts groups under the aegis of the Annenberg Foundation, which she led for the past seven years following her husband's death.

Aside from their philanthropic activities, the Annenbergs were long recognized as leading lights on the Philadelphia and international social scene.

Walter Annenberg's vast publishing empire, headquartered in Radnor, at one time or another included The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and TV Guide.

Both husband and wife were instrumental in donating and raising funds for innumerable Jewish causes and concerns, here and in Israel; two years ago, the Annenberg Foundation made a $500,000 grant to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's annual campaign, one of many such examples of largess for the organization over decades, with special gifts earmarked for the Israel Emergency Fund in 1967, after the Six-Day War; for Operation Moses, which brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1984; and for Operation Exodus, which helped Soviet Jews immigrate to Israel, in 1990.

There were especially notable efforts on behalf of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which saluted her for extraordinary commitment and on whose board Mrs. Annenberg once served. That was just one in a cavalcade of plaudits greeting the philanthropist, whose activities also generated ties to the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as a trustee emeritus of the Annenberg School of Communications; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she was also an active board member; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Mrs. Annenberg's ties to the region were acknowledged when she was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania.

Among her many other honors and accolades, she was a recipient of the Philadelphia Award in 2007 for her activity on behalf of promoting the city's profile internationally and, in 2001, the Crystal Award of the Union League. That same year, she was named a recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Mrs. Annenberg was long hailed for her leadership roles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Opera, Palm Springs Art Museum and the American Philosophical Society, as well as serving as chairman emeritus of the Foundation of Art and Preservation in Embassies.

Mrs. Annenberg also served as U.S. chief of protocol during the first term of the Ronald Reagan administration (1981-82), a position that carried with it the title of ambassador. The Annenbergs had been longtime friends and fund-raisers on behalf of Reagan and often hosted the first lady and the president at Sunnylands, their Rancho Mirage spread, on New Year's Eve.

Indeed, it was during her husband's tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1969 that Mrs. Annenberg helped make her artistic presence known, taking it upon herself to renovate -- to wide acclaim -- Winfield House, which served as the ambassadorial residence in London. She also formed the American Friends of Covent Garden, which used music to build artistic bridges between the United States and Great Britain. Mrs. Annenberg also was named an honorary fellow of the Royal Academy of the Arts.

Her multitude of honorary doctoral degrees include those granted by LaSalle University, Penn and Brandeis University.

The New York-born, Stanford University-educated Leonore Cohn Katleman Rosenstiel Annenberg -- whose first brief marriage to real estate mogul Belden Katleman was followed by her union with Lewis Rosenstiel of Schenley liquors, which also ended in divorce -- has been cited over the years by Forbes as one of the wealthiest people in the world and in many other publications as one of the world's leading movers and shakers in the realms of the arts and philanthropy. 

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