H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, who made a fortune as an early pioneer in cable television and then became the pre-eminent philanthropist in Philadelphia, has died. He was 88.
Lenfest, with his wife Marguerite always at his side, touched nearly every public and private institution in the city through his charitable giving. He gave $1.3 billion to more than 1,000 institutions, according to the Philly.com obituary posted Sunday.
"Today we mourn the loss of a Philadelphia giant who left an indelible mark on the City and the entire Philadelphia region," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "His generous contributions transformed the lives of countless individuals and institutions. His imprint will long remain on jewels like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Curtis Institute of Music."
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While his giving was wide-ranging, he made headlines nationally throughout the last decade for his ownership of Philadelphia's two daily newspapers, the Inquirer and Daily News. In what many in journalism dubbed as revolutionary, he then turned the papers over to a non-profit formed in his name, the Lenfest Institute, which he hoped to spur on donors to support journalism through charity.
He also was instrumental in the creation and opening of the American Revolution Museum, which opened in 2016.
Keith Leaphart, chairman of the Lenfest Foundation, the family's charitable organization, said Lenfest didn't see money in the traditional sense.
"Wealth didn't define Gerry. Gerry defined what wealth should be," Leaphart said.
Gov. Tom Wolf called Lenfest "a great human being and an even better citizen."
"Long before I became governor, I met and came to know and admire Gerry Lenfest for his commitment to making communities stronger," Wolf said. "Gerry and his wife, Marguerite, took their incredible success and offered the full energy of their lives in service of their fellow citizens and the city and state that they loved. There is likely not an organization or charity in Philadelphia that didn't benefit from the Lenfest family's generosity in some way."
He died Sunday morning at Presbyterian Hospital in University City, Philly.com reported.
Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts described Lenfest as "one of the greatest philanthropists the city has ever seen," according to Philly.com.
"He has changed our city and so many institutions," Roberts told the website, which was also donated to the Lenfest Institute along with the newspapers. Comcast eventually took over Lenfest's cable company, according to Philly.com.
Leaphart, the foundation chairman, said the world lost a bright light.
"He was an amazing man. My hurt is more for the city and what we lost," Leaphart said. "If we had more Gerry Lenfests, the world would be a much better place."
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