Leonore Annenberg

Paul R. Levy
2005
Marciene Mattleman
2007

The Honorable Leonore Annenberg succeeded her husband as chair and president of the Annenberg Foundation. At the time of her death the foundation had given away $4.2 billion to cultural, educational and medical institutions. But for the better part of her life Leonore Annenberg played the role of social hostess, living lavishly at baronial estates and well appointed apartments -- until 1981 when long-time friend Ronald Reagan nominated her as Chief of Protocol. In the words of one writer, “She sailed through on a 96-to-0 [Senate confirmation] vote and rolled up her Bill Blass sleeves.” She referred to it as “the first paying job I’ve ever had.” But life at the White House was different than the role she was used to. Leonore Annenberg fired staff and ruffled feathers. She threw lavish parties at Blair House. She curtsied in front of Price Charles (not a very American thing to do). When she was officially bumped from making the state arrangements for the presidential trip to attend Anwar Sadat’s funeral in Egypt, she resigned. Mrs. Annenberg returned to her social life and her giving.


 
L/dropcap]eonore and her husband were “partners in philanthropy.” After his death Annenberg became trustee emeritae of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and served on the boards of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. She took, perhaps, a more active role in Philadelphia’s cultural life than did her husband. When he was asked why he did not leave his art collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he replied “I happen to believe that strength should go to strength.” About the Philadelphia Award, Leonore Annenberg said: “Civic opportunity and responsibility are the core of a successful democracy. It is a delight to see this great city flourish as a world-class center for the arts, education, and medicine.

Prior to receiving the award (there are those who speculate she received the 2006 Award specifically because of this fact), Mrs. Annenberg was instrumental in preventing Thomas Eakins’ masterwork, The Gross Clinic, from leaving Philadelphia by pledging $10 million. She committed the foundation for $30 million to relocate the Barnes Foundation from Lower Merion to Philadelphia. She directed over $6 million to the National Constitution Center and was generous to the institutions on whose boards she sat.

Leonore Annenberg changed the Philadelphia social scene “through charm, a mastery of the art of hostessing, and a thick and ever-open checkbook.” Earlier in 2007, at the Academy of Music’s 150th anniversary gala, the 89-year old Annenberg, taking a cue from the academy’s own nickname, said: “I feel like the grand old lady of Locust Street.” But very few “grand old ladies” are known to watch Jeopardy with dinner served on tea trays, which she did.