March 12, 2009
The life and legacy of Leonore Annenberg and her late husband, Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, is one of the greatest stories of philanthropy in American history. Supporting the advancement of the arts and education throughout the United States, the Annenberg’s generosity forever changed the lives of Coachella Valley residents through their unparalleled support of Eisenhower Medical Center – the Valley’s only not-for-profit hospital.
The close relationship between the Annenbergs and Eisenhower Medical Center spans more than 40 years. Joining the Board in 1965, Ambassador Annenberg was a Founder and Trustee of Eisenhower Medical Center. “I remember one conversation I had with President Eisenhower,” said Ambassador Annenberg. “I said, â€˜Mr. President, it is great to have you involved with the building of the new hospital in our area.’ He said, â€˜I must tell you that it is the greatest honor I have ever received to have a medical center named after me.'”
A distinguished publisher, philanthropist, patron of the arts, and former ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Annenberg was a pioneer in the field of communications. An extraordinary advocate for education, Ambassador Annenberg funded the establishment of the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower in 1981, declaring the center would be “an unmatched facility where leaders in education, medicine, government and industry will gather to contemplate issues of the next century.”
“Masters in the Art of Medical Education,” the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower has earned an international reputation for excellence in continuing medical education programming and has won numerous awards for its productions. The Annenberg Center’s goal is to provide health care professionals with new research information that will impact their practice and ultimately have a positive effect on the treatment of their patients.
In January, 2007, coinciding with the groundbreaking for the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Pavilion, a five-story, 250,000-square-foot inpatient facility, Mrs. Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation announced a new gift to Eisenhower – $30 million – the largest single donation ever to Eisenhower. During the groundbreaking ceremony, Mrs. Annenberg addressed the invited guests, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Honorable George P. Schultz and Senator John C. Danforth.
“Great moments like this have filled Walter’s and my life with such joy,” said Mrs. Annenberg. “This medical center, including the Eisenhower Board members, physicians, and staff, has meant so much to our lives as well as to the development of the entire Coachella Valley.” Mrs. Annenberg continued, “Over 35 years have passed, and I am honored to be here to say that I have seen Walter’s dream come true for Eisenhower. This has become a top 100 hospital in America – it has become the place of excellence we all have hoped for.”
The Annenberg Pavilion groundbreaking also included a video in which former President George H.W. and Barbara Bush congratulated Mrs. Annenberg. “She [Leonore] and Walter were doing so much for health care over the years. And they loved this hospital,” said President Bush. “They loved this medical center…I always talk about being one of a thousand points of light. Well, Lee is a shining point of light in the galaxy because she’s done more than most people could possibly dream of doing.”
In December, 2007, Mrs. Annenberg announced a $10 million gift to Eisenhower, bringing the Annenberg’s total contribution to an astounding $100 million.
Mrs. Annenberg, working side by side with her husband, was a committed philanthropist and patron of the arts who served as Chief of Protocol with the rank of Ambassador under President Reagan. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the inaugural Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, Mrs. Annenberg received the Global Leadership Award in 2005 for her work in the fields of art, culture and education, including the Annenberg Foundation.