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Annenberg Made His Mark on American Life

October 13, 2002

Like many others, I've admired Walter Annenberg a lot over the years -- not just for what he did but for how he went about it (obituary, Oct. 2). One Sunday night in 1996, I was folding the laundry when the phone rang. I picked it up to hear his impressive voice. He was interested in investing in the renovation of Independence Mall, a project the Pew Trusts had just announced. I gave him a brief explanation of the importance of the plans for a new home for the Liberty Bell and other enhancements to the nation's most historic square mile, and of the economic stimulus it could provide to the Philadelphia region.

He asked incisive, thoughtful questions -- he was bringing his results-oriented business savvy to bear on philanthropy. After completing his appropriate due diligence, he was quick to move, and the next day his foundation was a major partner.

The ambassador afforded me a front-row lesson in sophisticated philanthropy and strategic thinking. We will all miss that energy, vision, commitment and profound sense of obligation to this great nation. No one felt more strongly that of those to whom much is given, much is expected. He gave to education reform, scholarship funds, universities and cultural institutions -- the list goes on. He also gave to his country through public service.

Most Americans will probably know Walter Annenberg, like Andrew Carnegie, more for the results of his philanthropy than for his remarkable business acumen. They have become a permanent part of American life. We are a better nation because of Annenberg's inspired and exceptional gifts.

Rebecca W. Rimel

President and CEO, Pew Charitable Trusts


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