Posted April 24, 2014

H. F. ‘Gerry’ Lenfest kicks off Provost Lecture Series

Joseph V. Labolito
H. F. "Gerry" Lenfest responded to questions from the audience alongside Assistant Professor Amy Caples, SMC ’85—emcee for the evening—at the inaugural Provost Lecture Series event.

Last week, H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader, told students how he made a fortune in the cable business—and why he has worked so hard to give it away. 

Speaking in the Temple Performing Arts Center April 17, Lenfest kicked off the Provost Lecture Series with the story of how his cable company was sold to Comcast Corp. in 2000 for approximately $7 billion.

“I can tell you right now that I didn’t get all of that money,” Lenfest told the crowd of students, faculty and community members. “But I got enough.”

Lenfest, who was appointed to the Temple University Board of Trustees last year, said he had to decide what to do with his wealth. He didn’t want to “spoil” his children and grandchildren. So he decided to start giving his money to good causes.

Over the years, Lenfest has donated millions of dollars to local and national causes, including education, the arts and disadvantaged youth. He has supported scholarships for rural students and has served on the boards of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

At Temple, Lenfest’s support made possible the Joe First Media Center in the School of Media and Communication, named in honor of his mentor, Joseph First. He also provided for the renovation of Lew Klein Hall in the Performing Arts Center, where Lenfest delivered his remarks.

During his lecture, Lenfest emphasized the importance of working hard. He told the crowd he spent years working out of a basement because he could not afford an office. He also highlighted the need to be trustworthy.

“You have to be honest and have integrity,” he said. “You go so much farther if people respect you and trust you to be fair.”

After coming from humble roots, Lenfest’s success prompted him to be a philanthropist.

“I regret not making a lot of money earlier,” he said to laughs, adding that “Giving away money is fun.”

Lenfest’s remarks, titled “From Media Mogul to Philanthropist,” inaugurated the Provost Lecture Series, which aims to connect students’ education to the real world. The series will bring experts to campus to discuss contemporary issues.

“Lenfest is the ideal speaker to kick off the lecture series,” Provost Hai-Lung Dai said. “He is a Philadelphia icon whose success, accomplishments and generosity are world renowned.”

During his talk, Lenfest took questions from the audience and shared lessons on working in the media, overcoming obstacles and taking risks. He talked about his affection for Philadelphia and his love for his family.

Lenfest’s dedication to the city resonated with many in the room.

Benjamin Math, a tourism and hospitality management major, said, “It’s good to hear from someone who helped so much in the Philadelphia community.”

—Ashwin Verghese, SMC ’08