H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest

Biography

Longtime Temple University supporter and benefactor H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest was born in 1930 in Jacksonville, Fla., grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. and on a family farm in Hunterdon County, N.J. His upbringing was unlike many other billionaire philanthropists in that he wasn’t born into wealth; in fact, his mother passed away when he was just 13. His twin sister, Marie Lenfest Schmitz, once recalled Gerry as an entrepreneur-in-training, selling eggs from the family farm around the neighborhood: “He was a leader and a salesman who could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Mr. Lenfest married Marguerite Brooks in 1955 and together they had three children. He built his fortune in the cable industry, as the owner of Suburban Cable, which he sold to Comcast in 2000. After that, he and Marguerite devoted themselves to philanthropy and gave away more than $1.3 billion to 1,100 organizations, including Temple. When the Klein College of Media and Communication was renamed for broadcasting pioneer Lew Klein, who has spent more than six decades teaching at Temple, the Lenfests contributed a seven-figure donation that helped to complete the multimillion dollar project. He received an honorary degree from the university in 2002, was awarded the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership from the Fox School in 2006, and was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 2013. Mr. Lenfest also intervened in 2013 when the University cut several athletic programs. He donated $3 million to save Temple’s rowing and crew teams from being cut as varsity sports and help renovate their boathouse — the historic East Park Canoe House. “We wouldn’t be here today if not for the mind-numbing generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Lenfest,” said Temple coach Brian Perkins. “He saved the rowing teams on a whim, then continued to support us.” In 2017 when the Board of Trustees announced that the Bell Tower on Main Campus would undergo renovations, the area at the base of the bell was named Lenfest Circle to honor the Lenfests’ commitment to the university. “The important thing in life is not how much money you’ve made, how many cars you have, how many yachts you have, but how you feel about yourself. And I feel pretty good,” said Mr. Lenfest in a video produced for the Museum of the American Revolution. Following Mr. Lenfest’s passing in August 2018, Marguerite Lenfest is carrying on the legacy begun by her late husband in her appointment to Temple’s Board of Trustees.

Temple University Degree
Honorary Degree ’02, Temple University

Temple University Awards & Affiliatons

  • Former Board of Trustees
  • Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership, 2006