Walter Annenberg : biography
Walter Hubert Annenberg (March 13, 1908 – October 1, 2002) was a U.S. publisher, philanthropist, and diplomat.
Walter Annenberg was born to a Jewish family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 1908. He was the only son of Sadie Cecelia née Freedman (1879–1965) and Moses "Moe" Louis Annenberg, who published The Daily Racing Form and purchased The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1936. He had seven sisters, whose names were Diana Annenberg (1900–1905), Esther “Aye” Annenberg Simon Levee (1901–1992), Janet Annenberg Hooker (1904–1997), Enid Annenberg Haupt (1906–2005), Lita Annenberg Hazen (1909–1985), Evelyn Annenberg Jaffe Hall (1911–2005), and Harriet Beatrice Annenberg Ames Aronson (1914–1969).
The Annenberg family moved to Long Island, New York, in 1920, and Walter attended high school at the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, graduating in 1927. He went on to college at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, not graduating. While in college he was a member of Zeta Beta Tau, a traditionally Jewish fraternity.
Annenberg was greatly affected by tax evasion charges and other scandals that involved his father in the 1930s. A significant part of his adult life was dedicated to rehabilitating the family’s name through philanthropy and public service.
Philanthropy and later life
Even while an active businessman, Annenberg had an interest in public service. In 1953 he became one of the founding trustees of Eisenhower Fellowships. After Richard M. Nixon was elected President, he appointed Annenberg as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in the United Kingdom. In 1969, under pressure after the Shapp controversy, Annenberg sold The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, which he bought in 1957, to Knight Newspapers for $55 million. After being appointed as ambassador, he became quite popular in Britain, eventually being made an honorary knight of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).
Annenberg led a lavish lifestyle. His "Sunnylands" winter estate in Rancho Mirage, California (near Palm Springs), hosted gatherings with such people as President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Charles, Prince of Wales, and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was Annenberg who introduced President Reagan to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the Reagans often celebrated New Year’s Eve with the Annenbergs. Leonore Annenberg was named by President Ronald Reagan as the State Department’s Chief of Protocol as well. Sunnylands covers guard-gated on a parcel surrounded by a stucco wall at the northwest corner of Frank Sinatra Drive and Bob Hope Drive; the property includes a golf course. Annenberg established the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He became a champion of public television, acquiring many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Reagan, the Linus Pauling Medal for Humanitarianism, the 1988 Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service and was named an Officer of the French Legion of Honor.Who’s who in the world, 1978–1979 In 1989, he established the Annenberg Foundation, and 1993, created the Annenberg Challenge, a US$500 million, five-year reform effort and the largest single gift ever made to American public education. In 1993 he and his wife Leonore were awarded the National Medal of Arts. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995.
He sold TV Guide, Seventeen, and a few other publications to Australian publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch in 1988 for $3 billion, announcing that he would devote the rest of his life to philanthropy.
During his lifetime, it is estimated that Annenberg donated over $2 billion. He once said that "education…holds civilization together".Krieger, Diane, "Forever Annenberg", Trojan Family Magazine, http://www.usc.edu/dept/pubrel/trojan_family/winter02/annenberg.html, Winter 2002 Many school buildings, libraries, theaters, hospitals, and museums across the United States now bear his name. His collection of French impressionist art was valued at approximately US$1 billion in 1991 and was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City upon his death in 2002. In 1990, he donated $50 million to the United Negro College Fund which was the largest amount ever contributed to the organization. He was also a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University, helping to raise funds for the Institute’s building and library.