One of City’s Greatest Philanthropists Dies at 88 with Roots Planted Deeply in Chester County

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Image of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest via Michael Bryant, Philadelphia Inquirer.

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, one of the Philadelphia region’s most dynamic civic leaders of the last century, has died at the age of 88, writes Pete Dobrin for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lenfest “parlayed the sale of the family cable business into a second act as the area’s leading philanthropist for nearly two decades, giving away more than $1.3 billion,” according to the Inquirer.

Part of that philanthropy included the 2007 donation of 568 acres to Natural Lands, an act that led to the establishment of the ChesLen Preserve, the largest privately-owned nature preserve open to the public in Chester County.

Also, the Lenfest Scholarship Program that he and his wife, Marguerite Lenfest, started in 2001 has benefited scores of Octorara High School graduates. The program was created to help talented students from central and southeastern Pennsylvania attend some of the country’s best colleges. In fact, at one point, there were almost a dozen Octorara graduates enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania at the same time, thanks to the program.

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Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts called Lenfest “one of the greatest philanthropists the city has ever seen.”

Lenfest accumulated his wealth by building up his cable business, Lenfest Communications, over several decades. He sold it in 2000, “undertaking a philanthropic spree that put the Lenfest name alongside those of Girard, Widener, Curtis, Annenberg, Pew, and Haas,” according to the Inquirer.

“I think he was one of the most memorable and lovable men I’ve ever known,” author and historian David McCullough said of Lenfest.

Click here to read more about H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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