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  H.F. Lenfest in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010  

Grateful Alumnus Donates $30 Million for Campus Arts Building

Columbia University Trustee H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest (LW ’58) has pledged $30 million to help build a multidisciplinary arts venue on the new Manhattanville campus.

President Bollinger announced the gift on Thursday night (November 17, 2011) at the Alexander Hamilton Medal dinner, where the Columbia College Alumni Association honored Mr. Lenfest with the College’s highest award.

The Lenfest Center for the Arts will play a central role in the development of the Manhattanville campus and in the life of the University. This six-floor facility to be designed by Renzo Piano will be more than a beautiful building containing an art gallery, a film screening room, and a performance space: it will serve as a hub for the creation of new work and the refinement of works in progress across various media, featuring exhibitions, theatrical performances, symposia, and lectures that present new artistic voices and perspectives from around the globe. Under the direction of Carol Becker, dean of the School of the Arts, these programs will produce a rich variety of innovative collaborations with other Columbia schools and departments. The resources made available by the center also will strengthen Columbia’s longstanding ties to the vibrant local arts community based in Harlem, generating partnerships with talented artists in northern Manhattan and throughout New York City.

It is fitting that this new facility, which embraces many of Columbia’s current initiatives while also celebrating our ties to a proud history of artistic creativity, is made possible by a gift from Gerry Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite. The Lenfests’ generosity to Columbia University has been remarkable, including the endowment of faculty chairs in the Arts and Sciences, the endowment of professorships in the Core Curriculum and at the Law School, support for the Columbia University Earth Institute and the Medical Center, and creation of the Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards.

Through their commitment to higher education and to Columbia, the Lenfests have deeply and positively affected the lives of countless undergraduate and graduate students and helped sustain the work of many of our faculty. Now we are fortunate to be able to look forward to the opening of the Lenfest Center for the Arts, a facility promising to be a great showcase for the creativity of students, faculty and guest artists, as well as a welcoming venue for Columbia’s large artistic community and many others beyond our campus.

In a bio published by Forbes Magazine:

Mr. Lenfest practiced law with Davis Polk & Wardwell before joining Triangle Publications in Philadelphia as Associate Counsel in 1965. In 1970, Mr. Lenfest was placed in charge of Triangle's Communications Division, serving as Editorial Director and Publisher of Seventeen Magazine and President of the CATV Operations. In 1974, Mr. Lenfest, with the support of two investors, formed Lenfest Communications, Inc. which purchased Suburban Cable TV Company and Lebanon Valley Cable TV Company from Triangle with a total of 7,600 subscribers. In January 2000, Mr. Lenfest sold his cable television operations, which by then served 1.2 million subscribers, to Comcast Corporation. Mr. Lenfest is the owner of various other businesses and is active in many philanthropic activities including Chairman of the Boards of the Curtis Institute, the Lenfest Foundation, the American Revolution Center, and the James Madison Council of the Library ofCongress. Mr. Lenfest is also a Trustee of Columbia University and a former Chair of the Board of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since 1989, Mr. Lenfest has served on the Board of Directors for TelVue Corporation, a broadcast technology company. Mr. Lenfest is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and Columbia Law School.

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