From the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of the Peddie Chronicle.

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The Annenberg Gift

From the Peddie Chronicle Spring/Summer 2018 issue

Walter Annenberg '27

Walter H. Annenberg (1908 - 2002)

It has been 25 years since Walter H. Annenberg ’27 bestowed his historic gift on Peddie. On Father’s Day 1993, Annenberg gave $100 million to the school – along with $265 million to the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California and Harvard University –  as an endowed fund designed to expand financial aid, institute innovative programs and recruit exceptional faculty. It was the largest cash gift ever given to an independent school, and it brought instant fame to Peddie.

Overnight, the school’s endowment catapulted from $17 million to $117 million. Applications soared. Students who previously had never considered Peddie because of financial circumstances were given an opportunity at a world-class education.

A quarter-century later, we continue to see the transformative power of Ambassador Annenberg’s generosity. Our students represent a wide range of geographic, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, adding a plurality of thought that spurs innovation. Our alumni are a vibrant, global community that is pushing the world forward.

When asked by The New York Times in June 1993 about his colossal gift to private education, Annenberg said: “I’m interested in the young people because the character of our country will be shaped by young people in the days ahead.” As Peddie continues to evolve and innovate, we do so with Annenberg’s imprint guiding the way.

“The happiest days of my life.”

Walter H. Annenberg arrived on the Peddie campus in 1921. He was a shy seventh-grade boy, with a bit of a stutter and hard of hearing in one ear.

Over six years at Peddie, he would transform into a confident man, make lifelong friends and enjoy what he called “the happiest days of my life.”

Annenberg, known as a student as “Annie,” was voted by his classmates “best businessman” and “done most for Peddie” when he graduated in 1927. That same year, he made his first gift to the school, donating $17,000 for a new cinder track on the athletic field.

Walter Annenberg '27 Peddie

Walter Annenberg '27 was voted by his classmates "best businessman" and "done most for Peddie."

In recounting his Peddie experience, Annenberg told of hanging out in the nurse’s office on his first days on campus, finding he was most comfortable there. But soon he was well-known on campus by faculty and students alike. 

Annenberg’s father was a successful businessman who went from a newspaper street vendor to the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Daily Mirror, the Daily Racing Form and other magazines. Annenberg, the only son in a family with seven sisters, took over the family’s publishing company after graduating Peddie and attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He expanded the media empire, launching Seventeen Magazine and TV Guide, which became the nation’s largest selling weekly magazine.

In 1938, Annenberg married and had two children, Roger and Wallis, before he divorced. He married Leonore Annenberg in a 1951 ceremony performed by Peddie’s headmaster, Dr. Carrol Morong.

In 1969, he was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom by President Richard Nixon.

During his entire adult life, Annenberg remained deeply involved with Peddie. He made numerous generous gifts and often visited the campus. In addition to the original Annenberg Library (now Coates-Coleman Alumni House), Annenberg funded Masters House in 1967 in honor of all his former teachers, an athletic center and the new Annenberg Library. The last contribution he ever made to Peddie supported the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Science Center. The building was dedicated in 2005 and funded with a $7 million gift from the couple and the Annenberg Foundation.

A lifetime of generosity

A young Walter Annenberg enrolls at Peddie. Known as “Annie,” he makes the class superlative list for “Best Businessman” and “Done Most for Peddie.

Shortly after graduation Annenberg donates $17,000 to Peddie for a new track. In the fall, he attends The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The original Walter H. Annenberg Library is dedicated. The building is later renovated as the Coates-Coleman Alumni House.

Annenberg donates money to build The Masters House, and it is dedicated in honor of his beloved teachers.

Annenberg pledges $12 million to Peddie, the largest individual donation to a private school.

Annenberg pledges another $10 million to Peddie.

The Walter H. Annenberg Library is dedicated, launching the school’s information network with Internet and email access. The facility was the first of its kind at the secondary education level. Memorial Hall, which houses the new library, is renamed Annenberg Hall.

Annenberg donates $265 million to the University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Harvard University and $100 million to Peddie. In one day, Peddie’s endowment jumps from $17 million to $117 million.

Walter and his wife, Leonore, visit Peddie to celebrate the 25-year tenure of Board Chair Finn M. W. Caspersen ’59.

The Annenbergs donate $7 million to name the new Walter and Leonore Annenberg Science Center.

Continuing Annenberg's legacy

The past 25 years have been a remarkable journey. Thanks to Walter Annenberg’s forward-thinking gift, Peddie is one of the most socio-economically diverse private schools in the country. 

Our recently completed strategic plan commits us to the historically significant hallmarks that inspired Ambassador Annenberg to make his spectacular gift to Peddie in 1993. We will expand access to Peddie so that more students of diverse backgrounds and talents can experience the transformational nature of a Peddie education. And we will grow our endowment to sustain Peddie’s level of excellence for generations to come.

Our vision solidifies Peddie’s position as one of the nation’s leading boarding schools. As we continue Ambassador Annenberg’s legacy, our success relies on everyone in the community joining together to achieve our goal.

Peddie’s current endowment enables the school to offer more than $8 million annually in financial aid to 40 percent of the student body. However, we still receive far more applications from exceptional students than we can support. By growing our endowment, we will have more resources for financial aid, and to support the exceptional teachers and innovative educational programs that define the Peddie experience.

Annenberg Masters House

Annenberg attends the dedication of The Masters House in 1967.