/ News / Remembering Gerry Lenfest

Curtis honors Chairman Emeritus Gerry Lenfest (1930–2018)

Gerry Lenfest congratulates cellist Abe Feder outside 1726 Locust St.A visionary and a leader whose generosity inspired us all, H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, played an extraordinary role in the history of Curtis. Curtis mourns his passing on Sunday, August 5 at age 88, and remembers the transformational effect he had on the school during his tenure as board chairman from 2006 to 2014.

Along with his wife, Marguerite, Mr. Lenfest made possible an extraordinary series of breakthroughs for Curtis. Spurred by his love of the arts and Curtis students—many of whom developed lasting relationships with the Lenfests—he presided over the creation of 21st-century opportunities for them. His infectious enthusiasm and whole-hearted embrace of an artistic and institutional vision has and will continue to inspire others.

During his tenure as chairman, new programs, residencies, and multi-disciplinary all-school projects were inaugurated. The campus doubled in size in 2011, when Lenfest Hall opened—with its state-of-the-art facilities, housing for half the student body, and rehearsal hall for the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Curtis instituted a specialized fitness and conditioning program; enhanced student services; and expanded its global outreach through Curtis on Tour, online courses and videos, and a new menu of summer programs.

The Lenfests’ remarkable relationship with Curtis was one of many. After building a successful cable business, Mr. Lenfest sold his company to Comcast. He and Marguerite resolved to give their new fortune away during their lifetimes, and became the Philadelphia region’s most generous philanthropists. Together they bestowed more than $1.3 billion on more than 1,000 organizations over the course of nearly two decades, and motivated many more millions in gifts from fellow donors through challenge grants. Their signature causes included the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which Mr. Lenfest served as chairman; the Museum of the American Revolution, which he spearheaded; and preserving local journalism at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, all of which he bought and then donated to a nonprofit he created.

The Lenfests’ generosity advanced the construction of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, cemented the new Barnes Foundation, created a marketing support system for local arts organizations, saved threatened programs at various Pennsylvania universities, and underwrote programs for underserved youth through the School District of Philadelphia. Further afield, they supported Columbia University’s law school, of which Mr. Lenfest was an alumnus, and scholarships for high school students in central Pennsylvania. In 2017 they Lenfests were honored with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Curtis owes a profound debt of gratitude to Mr. Lenfest and extends deepest condolences to his wife and partner in all things, Marguerite; and to his children, Diane, Chase, and Brook. The fabric of Curtis will always include the Lenfests, forever benefitting future generations of Curtis students and music itself.


(L to R) Mark E. Rubenstein, Roberto Díaz, and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest at Curtis's 2018 Gala

“Gerry was inspirational to the community at large, not just to the trustees, but to all of us —students, faculty, and staff. He was a wonderful example of what it's all about, which is giving back. His legacy is about so much more than Curtis, however. Through all of the institutions and causes that he and Marguerite were willing to support, directly and indirectly, he set an example for us all in his commitment to improving the lives of others. I can't imagine anybody more dedicated to improving their community.”
Roberto Díaz, President and CEO

"Gerry was a role model to any responsible citizen of our community. He represented the best in giving back, but also strongly encouraged others to follow his example. It is because of his reaching out that I now consider him my mentor as I serve as Chairman of the Board of Curtis. I will deeply miss his special friendship.”
Mark E. Rubenstein, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

 


A Legacy in Photos

We remember the warm smile and boundless generosity of Mr. Lenfest in this photo collection.

 

Gerry Lenfest and Roberto Díaz cut the ceremonial banner at the opening of Lenfest Hall in 2013. From left to right: Gary Steuer, chief cultural officer of the City of Philadelphia; former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter; Roberto Díaz; Gerry Lenfest; Marguerite Lenfest; Elizabeth Warshawer

 

Gerry Lenfest and Roberto Díaz look over plans for Lenfest Hall in 2011.

 

Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest pose in the Bok Room with fellowship students Erika Gray (Viola) and Janice Carissa (Piano).

 

Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, with fellowship students Erika Gray and Janice Carissa, President Díaz, and guitar student Hao Yang, at a dinner in their honor in 2017. Among Mr. Lenfest's many contributions to Curtis was his support of the new guitar program, which began in 2013.

 

Gerry Lenfest speaks with Baroness Nina von Maltzahn at a Curtis on Tour event in Berlin. Baroness von Maltzahn succeeded Mr. Lenfest as chair of the Curtis board of trustees in 2014.


"Transforming Generosity"

President Díaz penned this tribute to Mr. Lenfest upon his retirement as Board Chairman.

Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest pose with an architectural model of Lenfest Hall


 

Words from the Philadelphia Inquirer

This obituary by Peter Dobrin details Mr. Lenfest's remarkable life and contributions.

H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest Obituary

 

 

 


Make a Tribute Gift

In lieu of flowers, the Lenfest family has asked that tribute gifts be made to institutions including the Curtis Institute of Music.

 

 

A visionary and a leader whose generosity inspired us all, H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, played an extraordinary role in the history of Curtis. Curtis mourns his passing on Sunday, August 5 at age 88, and remembers the transformational effect he had on the school during his tenure as board chairman from 2006 to 2014.

Along with his wife, Marguerite, Mr. Lenfest made possible an extraordinary series of breakthroughs for Curtis. Spurred by his love of the arts and Curtis students—many of whom developed lasting relationships with the Lenfests—he presided over the creation of 21st-century opportunities for them. His infectious enthusiasm and whole-hearted embrace of an artistic and institutional vision has and will continue to inspire others.

During his tenure as chairman, new programs, residencies, and multi-disciplinary all-school projects were inaugurated. The campus doubled in size in 2011, when Lenfest Hall opened—with its state-of-the-art facilities, housing for half the student body, and rehearsal hall for the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Curtis instituted a specialized fitness and conditioning program; enhanced student services; and expanded its global outreach through Curtis on Tour, online courses and videos, and a new menu of summer programs.

The Lenfests’ remarkable relationship with Curtis was one of many. After building a successful cable business, Mr. Lenfest sold his company to Comcast. He and Marguerite resolved to give their new fortune away during their lifetimes, and became the Philadelphia region’s most generous philanthropists. Together they bestowed more than $1.3 billion on more than 1,000 organizations over the course of nearly two decades, and motivated many more millions in gifts from fellow donors through challenge grants. Their signature causes included the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which Mr. Lenfest served as chairman; the Museum of the American Revolution, which he spearheaded; and preserving local journalism at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, all of which he bought and then donated to a nonprofit he created.

The Lenfests’ generosity advanced the construction of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, cemented the new Barnes Foundation, created a marketing support system for local arts organizations, saved threatened programs at various Pennsylvania universities, and underwrote programs for underserved youth through the School District of Philadelphia. Further afield, they supported Columbia University’s law school, of which Mr. Lenfest was an alumnus, and scholarships for high school students in central Pennsylvania. In 2017 they Lenfests were honored with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Curtis owes a profound debt of gratitude to Mr. Lenfest and extends deepest condolences to his wife and partner in all things, Marguerite; and to his children, Diane, Chase, and Brook. The fabric of Curtis will always include the Lenfests, forever benefitting future generations of Curtis students and music itself.