Annenberg gifts stun educators $365 million goes to colleges, school

June 20, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

In what education specialists say is the largest cash donation in American education's history, the foundation funded by the publishing magnate Walter H. Annenberg is giving a total of $365 million to three universities and a New Jersey prep school.

Even taken separately, the $120 million donation to the University of Southern California and an identical amount to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, reportedly set records in higher education for cash gifts.

Mr. Annenberg's $100 million to the Peddie School, the academy he attended, marks a high in secondary school philanthropy, officials said. In addition, Harvard University is to receive $25 million.

"It's a very important thing in my life because there is nothing of greater importance than preparing the youth to run our country," Mr. Annenberg, 85, said in a telephone interview from his foundation office near Philadelphia.

"Education is the key."

Mr. Annenberg, the former owner of TV Guide and the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain during Richard M. Nixon's presidency, added that he hoped his gifts "will inspire other foundations to double their efforts to aid education." His past support of learning includes a 1990 pledge of $50 million to the United Negro College Fund, as well as large donations to communications schools that bear his family name at USC and at the University of Pennsylvania.

At the Council for Aid to Education, a New York-based organization, research director David Morgan described Mr. Annenberg's $365 million as "probably the largest transfer of individual wealth to the education sector" in one action. "It sounds pretty enormous to me," he said.

Usually such large donations are pledged with a flurry of flattering publicity, yet are often paid over many years and involve company stocks of shifting values.

In contrast, Mr. Annenberg's new pledges are to be fully paid in cash by the end of this year. That is very unusual, even for a man whose estimated $2.5 billion ranks him 80th in Fortune magazine's new listing of billionaires worldwide and who recently paid $57 million for a Van Gogh painting that he donated to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

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