Principal photography by Philip Channing
Annenberg with USC President Steven B. Sample, at the September 19 celebration
of her family’s new gift. Later, she told the crowd: “I’ve had an incredible
Issue: Winter 2002
More vigorous than ever, the three-decade, two-generation tie that binds the Annenbergs
to USC yields a $100 million vote of confidence for the school that bears the family name.
by Diane Krieger
The Sept. 19 headline must have seemed like déjà vu to some readers. “Foundation to Give USC $100 Million,” the Los Angeles Times proclaimed. The Annenberg Foundation, to be precise.
Hadn’t this already happened?
point of fact, it had not – but Annenberg philanthropy to USC had flowed
so fast and furiously in the past 30-odd years that it’s an understandable
confusion. The previous leviathan gift, in 1993, had been for $120 million,
and it was earmarked to launch the USC Annenberg Center for Communication
– an interdisciplinary institute marrying the university’s undisputed expertise
in filmmaking, communication and engineering/multimedia in a union of breathtaking
synergies. The current endowment is earmarked for the USC Annenberg School for Communication, to cement that bustling academic unit’s grasp on excellence and secure its cash-flow for all time.
family [members] believed strongly that they wanted to make sure, in perpetuity,
that both Annenberg Schools” – there’s another, older Annenberg School based
at the University of Pennsylvania; it, too, just received a $100 million
windfall – “could sustain greatness and even build on greatness,” explains
Geoffrey Cowan, dean of USC’s Annenberg School. “The goal, quite simply,
is to sustain Walter Annenberg’s vision through these remarkable endowments.”
(Sadly, the philanthropist died less than a month after the gift was announced.)
the ubiquity of the Annenberg prefix seems striking at USC, that’s no accident.
Over three decades, two generations of Annenbergs have pumped resources totaling
roughly $300 million into USC, making the family the most generous in Trojan
history. Patriarch Walter Annenberg, longtime publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and TV Guide
and former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, first singled out USC for
his patronage in 1971, when he founded the west-coast Annenberg School –
initially conceived as a graduate school-cum-new media think tank. His daughter,
Wallis Annenberg ’75, joined USC’s Board of Trustees the same year and has
made the Annenberg-USC relationship fruitful into the second generation.
Today, besides the Annenberg Center and the Annenberg School, there’s an
Annenberg building that houses the school’s administration, faculty, media
labs, classrooms and library. There are Wallis Annenberg-endowed chairs in
journalism and communication, as well as Wallis Annenberg fellows in the
social sciences and humanities. There are teenage Annenberg Challenge scholars
attending USC’s pre-collegiate Summer Seminars program, and Wallis Annenberg
research fellows combing through the Doheny Library’s rare books collections.
Annenberg dollars roll into USC’s mobile dental clinic, serving the University
Park community’s neighborhood schools, and Annenberg philanthropy is seeding
a therapy garden and greenhouse for patients of the USC-affiliated Rancho
Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center in Downey.
is the story of how a university and a family has partnered over 30 years
in a shared mission of promoting excellence in teaching, research and social
service. It’s not the first time such a thing has happened. But to find a
precedent on an equal scale, one would have to invoke names like Rockefeller
be sure, Annenberg philanthropy extends well beyond USC. The ambassador’s
generosity to his alma maters, The Peddie School and Penn, is the stuff of
legends. Entities as diverse as the United Negro College Fund, the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting and 18 school systems around the country have reaped
the bounty – estimated at more than $2 billion – that the family foundation
has dispensed to date. But its tie with USC is exceptional in its breadth,
interdisciplinary scope and sustained, generational energy.
Annenberg put the wheels in motion in 1970, even as he was settling in as
the Nixon administration’s ambassador to Great Britain. With his diplomatic
post in London and his business interests concentrated in Philadelphia, Annenberg
still found time for Palm Springs, where he and his wife, Lee, had wintered
for years. In 1966, the couple had built a home in Rancho Mirage, lovingly
dubbed “Sunnylands”; the fabled estate was designed by celebrated Modernist
architect A. Quincy Jones, then a professor and later dean of USC’s School
had numerous ties to USC. His friendship with retiring USC president Norman
Topping went back to Penn, where Topping had once been a senior administrator.
The ambassador was also well-acquainted with USC trustees Justin Dart, Leonard
K. Firestone and J. Robert Fluor ’43 and incoming USC president John R. Hubbard.
And then there was his own wife, Lee, who had briefly attended USC as an
founded a communication school at Penn in the early 1960s (sometimes informally
called Annenberg-East), Annenberg began thinking about fashioning a West
some point,” recalls founding dean Frederick D. Williams MA ’60, PhD ’62,
“the idea came up for developing an Annenberg School on the USC campus under
a contract like the Penn model, but not necessarily the same program.”
program had (and still has) a strong policy thrust, capitalizing on a proximity
to Washington, D.C., that invites specialization in the arcania of FCC rules,
global control over satellite bandwidths and the like.
program, the ambassador articulated, was to focus on the university’s own
regional strengths. The Southland was then clearly emerging as the nation’s
hub in the telecommunication and new-media revolution to come. Williams,
a specialist in the social and economic impacts of then-new technologies
such as videotape, cable, satellite and computing, was recruited from the
University of Texas, Austin, to lead the start-up.
The school was initially very small, with a 10-person faculty and a few
dozen students at the master’s and doctoral levels. Walter Annenberg worked
out a deal with USC president John Hubbard to provide $5 million in operating
funds over the first 10 years, plus $3 million to construct a new building.
schools have been born in such luxury. Under the terms of USC’s contract
with the precursor to today’s Annenberg Foundation, the new school was to
be reimbursed for operating expenses not covered by tuition income – of which
there was little enough, since the Ph.D. students all enjoyed full fellowships.
liked it that way; he’d specified that the school was not to do any fundraising.
“He didn’t want it to look like Walter Annenberg was going hat-in-hand and
not taking care of his school,” recalls longtime school administrator Carolyn
Spicer MLA ’62, who retired in 1999.
The new school was governed by a joint committee composed of half USC trustees,
half Annenberg representatives. The arrangement later fell by the wayside,
but it ensured that Walter, Lee and Wallis Annenberg were minutely involved
in the school’s early formation and decision-making.
“My father was an active participant in the policies of the school,” says
Wallis Annenberg. “He laid the foundation, and we continue to build upon
build they did. The School’s headquarters were designed by Quincy Jones (whose
other campus commissions include the Faculty Center and four major structures
for the USC School of Cinema-Television).
Dedicated in November 1976, the edifice was a futuristic marvel: “I couldn’t shake the notion,” a Los Angeles Times
critic mused at the time, “that this new architectural environment may one
day be a place to change all our environments. The building certainly encourages
such pulses, with an electronic master control board to connect every nook
and usage.… With a built-in audience response system to computerize critical
responses from people pushing buttons under their seats. With a photographic
production center, a set of projection rooms and the capability to turn almost
any cranny into a sending-receiving center.”
ambassador kept the funds coming. Six months before the dedication, he “asked
the USC Board of Trustees to accept an additional $500,000 for furniture
and equipment,” board minutes show.
same year, he gave $10 million more to kick off the Annenberg Center for
Study of the American Experience. The short-lived research institute more
than doubled the school’s physical space with Jones’ addition of a west wing,
dedicated in 1978.
ambassador’s $3 million gift in February 1990 put then-President James H.
Zumberge’s $640 million capital campaign over the top, and brought Annenberg’s
total USC-directed philanthropy since 1984 to $28.2 million. Incidentally,
he had given both the first and the last gift of the six-year Campaign for
it turned out, Annenberg was just warming up. In May 1992, with Steven B.
Sample newly installed as USC president, he gave another $24.6 million to
support programs at USC’s Annenberg School. It was, at that time, the largest
single gift the university had ever received, but Annenberg lost no time
beating his own record. Eighteen months later, in October 1993, he announced
a record-shattering $120 million gift to endow the USC Annenberg Center for
Communication. And now, nine years later, here’s $100 million more.
the nine-figure checks have come checks and balances. The Annenbergs have
been attentive guardians of their investment. “They adopted the two university
schools that bear their name,” says USC’s communication school director Patricia
June, a major conference at Penn’s Annenberg School on health communication
drew the active participation of Lee Annenberg and other family members.
At USC, Wallis Annenberg is a vocal member of the school’s advisory board
and stays in close contact with both Cowan and USC Annenberg Center executive
director Elizabeth Daley.
“It’s a remarkable situation,” says Riley. “It certainly isn’t like anything else that I’ve ever seen.”
Luckily for USC, Wallis Annenberg turned out to be a “chip off the old
block,” says Cowan, inheriting her father’s flair for educational philanthropy.
Had no better reason existed for her to embrace
USC, she would have done so from family pride and filial duty. But Wallis
– everyone calls her that – found other excellent reasons to do so.
the mid-1970s, Walter Annenberg’s only daughter found herself newly divorced,
a mother of four and a USC trustee. It proved a dynamic mix.
A dozen years earlier, she had dropped out of Columbia University to marry.
Finding herself once again in an academic milieu, she began looking for “something
intellectually stimulating,” says Norman Fertig, retired associate dean of
the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Wallis went back to school.
“I put her in two classes at first,” says Fertig, who became her academic
advisor. Finding that the thirty-something trustee had a “very sharp and
sparkling mind,” Fertig advised her to take geology with Richard Stone, philosophy
with Kevin Robb, and three or four other courses. Laughing, Wallis recalls
standing in line in the old gymnasium, her reg card in hand, waiting her
turn with the “crazy registration system that still owes me an $1,800 refund
for a course I dropped.”
young philosophy professor, meanwhile, recalls fretting over the prospect
of having a trustee in his “Origins of Greek Thought” class. Would she do
the reading? Would she participate? Would the other students freeze up in
her presence? Wallis removed all doubts in the first few minutes of class.
“She did the work just like everyone, she got into the discussions and asked
excellent questions,” Robb says. She was particularly interested in the restricted
role of women in ancient Greek society, he recalls.
for casting a pall over the room, Wallis so thoroughly bonded with her classmates
that at the end of that semester she invited 30 of them to a dinner party
at her mansion. Robb remembers the evening well. He sat next to Truman Capote.
a senior faculty member and the philosophy department’s undergraduate advisor,
Robb still calls Wallis once or twice a year to ask her to join a group of
promising philosophy majors for lunch at the Faculty Center. She never turns
him down. “She has a way with young people,” he says. “She often tells me
that with a lot of the meetings she attends, she goes out of duty. But meeting
with young people is always a pleasure.”
isn’t the only institution Wallis Annenberg supports wholeheartedly – she’s
a major patron of the arts, particularly of the Music Center and the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art. But USC is very dear to her heart.
been through the Hubbard administration, the Zumberge administrationand currently
the Sample administration,” she says happily, “and I’ve had the pleasure
of watching the university grow and become a school where it’s very difficult
to get in today.”
of her sons, Charles Weingarten MFA ’96, has taken the USC connection into
the third generation. “I was so thrilled that Charles chose to attend the
USC film school after he graduated from Duke,” she says. “I think it’s an
incredible achievement. And I’m very proud of him.”
who remains a personal friend, calls Wallis’ attachment to USC a “splendid
association. There’s a passion for education,” he says. “The money is great,
too, but I think the other is more important.”
money has indeed been great. Over the years, Wallis has given more than $12
million, most of it in the last 10 years. And not exclusively to communication
projects. In 1993, for example, she created a $500,000 scholarship fund to
support women students age 35 or older.
I went back to school at USC, I was in that age range, and I know how much
it meant to me,” she explains. “I was feeling about 90 years old when I was
35. And I’m one of the privileged, who can afford to get staffing to watch
my children and chauffeur them. I thought to myself: ‘I don’t want age to
be a barrier for any woman to stop her from achieving her goals.’ It was
a real privilege and really meaningful to be able to establish that fund.”
Wallis Annenberg: “I have been taught since childhood that with privilege comes responsibility.”
Principal photography by Philip Channing
After Wallis completed her coursework at USC, she went to work as a story editor for TV Guide,
a job she held for 14 years. “I loved it,” she says. “That’s where I wanted
to be. At the time I thought it would go on forever. Perhaps that was a mistake;
perhaps that’s why I care so much about young women being prepared, because
I didn’t have the business background to go into the publishing end.”
career ended abruptly in 1990. Two years after Walter Annenberg sold TV Guide
to Rupert Murdoch, she was fired. “But I lasted two years! And I think it’s
important to note that most of my father’s employees were fired immediately.
Some of those men were very shocked,” she says, arching expressive brows,
“that I held on to my job. But I was good at what I did. I honed my skills
and had developed a network of contacts that the magazine needed.”
year, in what she calls an off-shoot of her women-over-35 scholarships, Wallis
created a $5 million endowment to support graduate students in the humanities
and social sciences pursuing research on issues affecting women and children
and potential threats to their well-being. The Wallis Annenberg fellows –
there are currently three in sociology and one in psychology – receive a
year’s tuition, health insurance and a $16,000 stipend.
the Annenberg Foundation opening offices in Los Angeles last year, Wallis
(who is a vice president) has hit her philanthropic stride. Her $6 million
gift to the USC Annenberg School, also announced in 2001, created the school’s
first named professorships. The fact that each chair comes pre-packaged with
a graduate research fellowship is an irresistible carrot to attract top talent,
says Cowan, the school’s dean. Search committees began scouting for the field’s
best and brightest minds. In September, former San Jose Mercury publisher
Jay Harris became the first Wallis Annenberg chairholder and founding director
of the school’s new Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy.
Wallis’ less publicized philanthropy makes palpable ripples across USC. A
1997 tour of the Doheny Library’s Department of Special Collections so charmed
the longtime trustee that she promptly cut a check for $25,000. The library
has since awarded Wallis Annenberg Research Grants – $1,000 to cover travel,
lodging and incidental expenses – to half a dozen visiting scholars, mostly
doctoral students needing access to rare documents. In the mid- and late
1990s, she gave $450,000 toward USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative –
a six-year college prep program for low-income minority youths living in
the University Park community.
year, she funneled $300,000 to the USC Summer Seminars program, plucking
60 students from Annenberg Challenge “sites” (schools participating in the
Annenberg Foundation’s historic eight-year, $500 million school reform effort
that ended in June) to attend USC’s elite pre-collegiate program. The Wallis
Annenberg Scholars program, now in its second year, pays these disadvantaged
high school sophomores’ and juniors’ tuition, fees and travel expenses, and
throws in new laptops and $600 stipends for good measure. So pleased is Wallis
with the program that she plans to “leverage it” to continue outside the
Annenberg Challenge framework, which has now expired.
USC Mobile Dental Unit is another cause that Wallis has adopted. The student-operated
ambulatory clinic, which has brought basic dental care – cleanings, x-rays,
examinations – to more than 2,000 local schoolchildren, received $100,000
backing from Wallis last year. She says it’s just the beginning. “I want
to do the same thing with eye care and hearing tests for area children. It’s
so important. If medically you have a problem, you’re already behind the
eight-ball without everything else.”
all comes back to a deeply ingrained principle. “I have been taught since
childhood,” she says, “that with privilege comes responsibility. Education
is the key that unlocks the doors of opportunity, and we must act responsibly
on behalf of the greater need.”
Annenberg School at USC was created as a stand-alone school, but the ambassador
had suggested as early as 1983 that the university should consider bringing
all its communication programs under one roof. Those programs were numerous
and unruly, going back as far as the university itself. A course in elocution
was offered in the inaugural year of 1880. The College of Oratory was founded
in 1895, and renamed the School of Speech in 1921. Ten years later it was
subsumed into the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, whence it mutated,
in 1954, into the Division of Communication, with departments in cinema,
drama, journalism, speech and telecommunications. Seeds of a journalism school
had sprouted from newspaper writing courses based in the English department
starting 1912. A Department of Radio sprang up in 1928. A forensic program
emerged in the 1930s, though USC’s nationally ranked debate squad traces
its origins to a 1885 Trojan club. Efforts at consolidation had been tried
before, without lasting success.
the early 1990s recession hit USC, fiscal pain proved salutary for communication
programs, providing the impetus to finally weave their many strands together.
Merging the Annenberg School with the School of Journalism and the Department
of Communication Arts and Sciences (a popular undergraduate program in the
College of Letters, Arts and Sciences) has been an unqualified triumph, USC
officials and the Annenbergs agree. Since the 1994 “convergence,” the much-enlarged
USC Annenberg School has been on a roll. (In 2002, it comprised 60 full-time
faculty, more than 100 adjunct faculty, more than 1,400 undergraduate and
graduate students, and an operating budget exceeding $28 million.)
strategic plan that Cowan says flows directly from the ambassador’s 1971
mission for the school was adopted in 1999. It identifies four areas of strength
– globalization, technology, entertainment and the public interest.
probably one of the strongest, maybe the strongest school in our fields,”
Cowan says. That alone, he adds, isn’t good enough: “We should not only be
a great academic institution in the traditional sense; wherever possible
we should strive to make a difference in the world.”
Cowan, with school directors and other top administrators, has been reconsidering
the burgeoning potential of the school’s multi-faceted faculties and students,
research centers and policy institutes, seminar series and consortia, and
scholarly publications and media outlets.
been trying to find all the possible synergies between these schools,” says
Cowan – synergies that often cascade over disciplinary walls.
of the ways in which the USC Annenberg School may be different from other
places is the degree to which we’re interconnected with other units on campus,”
says Patricia Riley, who directs the communication side of the house. She
cites a steady stream of joint projects with engineering, business, cinema-TV,
psychology, education and international relations. Riley herself is currently
co-authoring a book with USC Marshall School of Business leadership expert
interdisciplinary thrust shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that
communication touches every aspect of human activity. So within the communication
faculty, you’ve got media and politics scholars studying ways to get youth
engaged in civic life; and organizational communication experts, like Riley
herself, who study the effects of businesses having to operate 24/7. Building
on its telecom expertise, the school has carved out a niche in computer-mediated
communication, a field concerned with, for example, the effects of teenagers
spending untold hours “instant messaging” and surfing the Web.
a broad program, and we have people who specialize in both the social science
and the humanistic side,” says Riley. Everything from ancient Greek principles
of argumentation to copyright issues raised by digitization. Even USC’s elite
debate squad (they were national champions in 1996) is based here.
Riley, the $100 million Annenberg gift more than anything is a vote of confidence.
“It’s affirming,” she says. “You don’t typically throw that kind of money
away. It’ll let a lot of people – who have been working very, very hard;
spent all those many, many weekends writing grant proposals and staying up
all night doing research – know that they’re appreciated. That’s rare on
The 1996 Gorman Report ranked the USC Annenberg School third in the country (U.S. News & World Report
doesn’t rank communication programs), and last year, an external review team
of deans and faculty from peer programs at Columbia, Penn (Annenberg School),
UT Austin and UC Berkeley confirmed that ranking, placing it in the top three
nationally. Admission – always competitive – is now cut-throat. Freshman
SATs last year averaged 1315; the mean GPA was 3.96. Incoming graduate students
are the cream of the crop.
To Michael Parks, director of the
school’s fast-growing journalism program, the latest $100 million gift has
epic qualities: “It ranks Walter Annenberg with Joseph Pulitzer and Joseph
Medill,” he says. (The former bankrolled Columbia University’s Graduate School
of Journalism; the latter established Northwestern’s Medill School.) “It’s
a commitment to excellence that really looks ahead at what role journalism
plays in our democracy,” adds the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent
and past editor of the Los Angeles Times.
J-school has been evolving into “a professional school for people who really
think,” according to Cowan. “Our goal is to teach students to be the best
at their crafts, but also to understand substance well, so they can ask the
very best questions.” The school strongly encourages journalism undergraduates
to have at least one other major, or a couple of minors. “We had one undergraduate
last year who had three majors!” Cowan says.
the latest Annenberg windfall is best allocated remains to be seen. Cowan,
Parks and Riley plan to hold school-wide meetings to set priorities.
Parks already has his eye on some pressing needs, such as the expected
retirement of a large number of distinguished journalism faculty and the
need to recruit a successor generation of top-notch mid-career practitioner-professors
to replace them.
there’s the demand, voiced by many students, for greater hands-on experiences.
Last fall, the school moved to a convergence curriculum that prepares every
student to report, write, produce and edit across all three media – print,
broadcast and online.
was issue No. 1,” says Parks. “It was a major undertaking.” The school already
places majors in two or three outside internships, but undergraduates are
clamoring for more. “Going in and logging tapes is different from going on
camera or running a camera,” Parks explains. “Being the gofer – though we
try to make sure they don’t do much of that in internships – is different
than being the anchor.”
questions concerning the state of the profession also beckon. “If you’re
looking at how to apply an extraordinary gift,” says Parks, “I start with
the mission: ‘Improving the practice of journalism.’ Where can we make a
difference? Where can we have an impact?” He hardly skips a beat, supplying
the obvious answer: “Reform of local broadcast news has got to be one of
the top 10 societal priorities we have. It’s abysmal, just abysmal.”
J-school itself, by contrast, is excellent. Enrollment is on the rise. “We
think we’re among the best five or six J-schools in the country – and no
one’s told me otherwise,” quips Parks. Attendance figures back that up. Last
spring’s undergraduate enrollment was 571, up 20 percent from 1999. Graduate
enrollment this fall is expected to top 100 students, double what it was
three years ago. Peer institutions include Columbia’s Graduate School of
Journalism, Northwestern’s Medill School and public powerhouses University
of Missouri and UC Berkeley.
in one of the USC Annenberg building’s theater-style classrooms, attending
a parliamentary debate tournament run by the Trojan Debate Squad in early
August, Wallis Annenberg is ringed by chattering teens pressing close to
say hello and regale her with pre-college war stories. Wallis beams. She
knows many of these kids well: some are here for the second time as Wallis
Annenberg Scholars participating in USC’s Summer Seminars program. Whether
newbies or repeaters, all 58 at some point this summer had lunch with her at the Faculty Center.
never know what’s going to spark them, when a passion for something will
arise,” says Wallis, sparkling with passion herself. “Here are children,
some of whom have never left that safe harbor. I want them to risk emotionally,
spiritually and intellectually.”
it happens, all four debate finalists are Wallis Annenberg Scholars. One
by one, as they take the podium, they thank their smiling patroness before
launching into arguments for and against the resolution: “It is better to
be smart than popular.” In a surprise ending, the underdog opposition side
wins with an unorthodox tactic of arguing “It is better to be smart and popular”
(perfectly legal in the take-no-hostages format modeled on Britain’s raucous
House of Commons).
the peanut gallery’s “shames” and “hear-hears” have faded, program coordinator
Steve Foral mounts the podium to announce the winner of the first Spirit
of Wallis Annenberg Award – recognizing the scholar who best reflects the
values of their benefactor. Those values, Foral summarizes, are an abiding
belief in the worth of young people (“In an age when it’s fashionable to
criticize kids, Wallis says, ‘They’re not so bad’”); faith in the benefits
of education (“in a world that encourages you to be dumb”); and a conviction
that everyone should develop themselves to their fullest abilities.
I find Wallis to be both smart and popular,” Foral quips, as he calls on
the guest of honor to present her eponymous award to 16-year-old Rachelle
Cruz of Hayward, Calif.
From the podium, Wallis looks into the bright faces of her scholars.
“All of you are winners as far as I’m concerned,” she extols them. “How proud I am to know you!”
The Hon. Walter H. Annenberg in diplomatic regalia. He was a “symbol of
all that Ronald Reagan and I believed in,” says former British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher of her political ally and friend.
Photo courtesy of Annenberg Foundation
Annenberg, who died in October at the age of 94, will be remembered equally
for his philanthropic and his publishing genius.
by Nick T. Spark
In early 1992, USC President Steven B. Sample sent a two-page proposal
to Walter Annenberg asking for a small sum to support interaction between
several university departments. “It attracted Mr. Annenberg’s attention,”
remembers Sample. “And we began to chat about it on the phone.”
the course of perhaps a dozen phone calls, Annenberg and Sample chatted about
interdisciplinary education. As they did, the philanthropist began redefining
the very notion. “His ideas went far beyond what I had in mind,” Sample recalls.
“Before I knew it, he was talking about donating a much larger sum of money
than I had asked for.”
Annenberg envisioned it, he would found a new center to foster shared research
between USC’s schools of engineering, cinema-television, communication and
journalism. It would be a revolutionary model to forever change the notion
of interdisciplinary education. The scope of the grant was equally revolutionary:
$120 million – among the largest commitments that any individual had ever
made in the field of higher education. It represented, like so many of Annenberg’s
philanthropic efforts, a tremendous challenge. In accepting it, Sample and
USC committed themselves to strive and achieve in ways and directions heretofore
unimagined and unexplored.
It was not the first time, nor the
last, that Walter Annenberg would challenge USC, or America, to pursue new
and visionary goals. Publisher, editor, television broadcast pioneer, former
ambassador to the United Kingdom, creator of American icons Seventeen magazine and TV Guide,
patron of the arts and humanities, he challenged thousands of people, from
elementary school kids to university presidents, and even U.S. presidents
and British prime ministers.
of State Gen. Colin Powell calls Annenberg one of his personal role models,
and one of the reasons he began working with troubled youth. “He’s always
steered me in that direction, public service,” Powell says. “He believes
that every citizen is responsible for giving back, in equal measure, that
which has been given to them by society. He certainly has.”
believes education is wealth,” adds former Brown University president Vartan
Gregorian, now director of the non-profit Carnegie Corporation. “Education
is a means of liberation from fear, from want, from ignorance, and an investment
in the future of our country.”
scope and scale of Annenberg’s philanthropy is breathtaking. His gifts –
presented to schools, universities, museums, foundations and public and private
organizations – run into the billions of dollars. This wealth has been committed
in a well-defined effort: to promote democracy, to create opportunity and
to strengthen the American nation. The central themes have always been the
causes of communication, the preservation of culture and, perhaps most importantly,
greatest supporter of education for the financially disadvantaged grew up
amidst wealth and privilege. The son of Moses Annenberg, a penniless immigrant-turned-millionaire
newspaper publisher, young Walter showed remarkable promise from an early
age – not just as an entrepreneur but as something of a business savant.
While still a student at The Peddie School, a private academy in New Jersey,
he invested some poker winnings in the stock market. By the time he graduated,
Walter had amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars and made his first philanthropic
gesture: a $17,000 gift to his alma mater.
Peddie, Annenberg was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton
School. But in 1928, ignoring his father’s strong protests, he dropped out.
The lure of the stock market, then soaring to dizzying and ultimately unsupportable
heights, was too great. By the time Walter turned 21, the boy-genius was
worth more than $3 million. A few months later, he was broke. The Great Crash
of ’29 had struck like a cataclysm. If it had not been for his father’s willingness
to pay his debts and put him to work, Walter Annenberg would have been destitute.
Given a second chance, Annenberg patiently spent years learning the ropes
of the publishing business through the family-owned Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily Racing Form.
In 1943, he launched Seventeen,
the first magazine to take the concerns of young girls seriously. An even
more precocious venture was Annenberg’s purchase, in the 1950s, of several
TV stations and a fledgling television schedule tabloid. In 1953, there were
scarcely enough programs on television to justify the existence of such a
thing. Region by region, Annenberg bought up all the competitors, then set
about distributing his new magazine, called TV Guide, nationwide.
Many predicted it would fail, and at first TV Guide lost money. But Annenberg
remained undaunted, believing that television represented the future.
Around the time he was rebuilding his empire, Annenberg was also rebuilding
his personal life. After his first marriage ended, Annenberg met the woman
who was to become his soul mate and the bedrock of his social, political
and philanthropic life. Leonore Rosenstiel, niece of Columbia Pictures executive
Harry Cohn, had grown up in Los Angeles and briefly attended USC before graduating
from Stanford in 1940, majoring in history and minoring in political science.
She married Walter Annenberg in 1951, thus establishing a team that would
have a lasting impact on the country and the world.
of the team’s great passions was art. Together, they traveled the world and
amassed one of the great private collections of Impressionist and post-Impressionist
paintings in the world (which will eventually reside in New York’s Metropolitan
Museum of Art). They also helped fund the construction of galleries and art
museums across the United States (including the Los Angeles County Museum
of Art) and abroad.
tell you a favorite story,” says friend and Philadelphia attorney Arlin Adams.
“One time Walter went to see Monet’s garden at Giverny. Well, as he went
through the property, Walter noticed that it was divided by a highway. And
he began worrying about the fact that a lot of children came through there...
someone might get hurt. So without any solicitation he gave them $5 million
to build a passage under the highway.” The donation to Giverny, like so many
others, was made with little or no fanfare.
great passion the couple shared was Republican politics. Annenberg had served
the party behind the scenes for many decades, and in 1968, a grateful Richard
Nixon asked him to become the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. (Later, Lee
Annenberg would serve as President Reagan’s chief of protocol.)
the sensationalist British press at first found the American media magnate-turned-diplomat
an irresistible target, eventually the English came to admire and even have
great affection for the Annenbergs. The turning of the tide owed much to
a slow but steady recognition that Walter and Lee were quietly performing
acts of charity throughout the country – starting with the exquisite renovation
of Winfield House, the official U.S. ambassadorial residence in Regent’s
Park. Later, when the Annenbergs announced their substantial art collection
would be displayed free of charge at the Tate Gallery, all London applauded.
did so much to strengthen the relationship and the natural ties which already
existed,” says former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who first met the
Annenbergs when she was the Tory minister of education. “Walter could, as
the saying goes, walk with kings and not lose the common touch…. He has that
marvelous generosity of spirit that is America.” Indeed, Queen Elizabeth
knighted him – the only knighthood she ever granted a U.S. ambassador – on
her visit to Philadelphia during the American bicentennial celebrations.
after he resigned his post in 1975, Annenberg remained an important political
advisor to a succession of U.S. presidents, most notably Nixon, Ford and
Bush. But it was with his good friends Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
that Walter Annenberg was most closely connected. “We all believed the same
things,” Thatcher explains. “We believed the same philosophy. And Walter
is a living symbol of all that Ronald Reagan and I believed in – that wealth
is not created by the dictate of governments but by the talents and creativity
and work and inspiration of individuals.”
Annenberg believed that the key to the maintenance of democracy was preservation
of the West’s open society. Accordingly he positioned his philanthropy to
promote openness – founding think tanks and institutes devoted to the study
of religion, politics and media, and twin schools of communication at the
University of Pennsylvania and USC. Both schools have championed the media’s
independence and impartiality, and made enormous contributions to the fields
of media criticism, communications history, technology and public policy.
his communication schools, which created groundbreaking critiques of America’s
media culture, Walter Annenberg himself became a vital force for change.
Through the pages of TV Guide, he became an outspoken critic of television programming and content, which in his view entertained but rarely educated.
own record in this area was singular. In the 1950s, when TV networks confined
their programming to the evenings, Annenberg’s stations ran a groundbreaking
series of afternoon shows: college courses taught by real university professors.
Thirty years later, Newton Minow – then chairman of the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting and the man who had famously labeled television “a vast wasteland”
in 1961 – was urging Annenberg to fund a few educational programs for PBS.
Annenberg pledged $5 million for a series on European art. Later, he reneged
on this pledge and, in classic style, proposed something far more visionary
said, ‘I’m not going to give you the $5 million,’” Minow recalls. “Then he
said, ‘I’m going to make it $150 million, over a period of 15 years. And
we’re not going to just do a series on art but create a ‘University of the
Air.’ I want to make it possible for every person in America to have the
benefit of a college education.’”
jumped at the chance. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans – hundreds of thousands!”
he says gleefully – “have seen the Annenberg courses, benefited from them,
and gotten college degrees.”
When in 1988, at the age of 80, Walter Annenberg sold TV Guide, Seventeen
and his other publications to Rupert Murdoch and divested himself of his
television stations, many assumed his career was winding down.
turned out he was just switching gears, clearing the decks to devote all
his energies to his philanthropy. He intended, he announced, to give away
most of his fortune, and do it while he was still able to oversee its distribution.
“I want to know where my money’s going,” he once told a reporter, explaining
his motivations. “I think it’s a matter of good citizenship.”
most sweeping expression of Annenberg’s commitment to education was unveiled
at a special White House ceremony in 1993. Flanked by President Bill Clinton
and Secretary of Education Richard Riley, Annenberg announced a $500 million
grant to K-12 public education. The “Annenberg Challenge” had been inspired
by a series of troubling press reports concerning rising violence in primary
and secondary schools, and declining performance and test scores.
makes me frightened for the future of my country,” Annenberg stated at the
press conference. “Education is the only answer. It’s the glue that holds
civilization together. Without it, we would go back to the Dark Ages.”
Annenberg Challenge – which concluded in June – sharply focused attention
on the nation’s public school system. Structured as a “matching funds” grant,
it attracted an additional $600 million in private sector monies to the cause,
and created public-private bonds where none existed before.
by Sample as “one of the greatest Trojans of all,” Walter Annenberg joined
Lee on the 1998 commencement platform as she received an honorary degree.
Photo by Irene Fertik
president Steven Sample, who chaired the Annenberg Challenge committee that
dispersed $53 million to Southern California schools, notes that “no one
program is going to transform the public schools in America. But the Annenberg
Grant has shown that one program can make a difference. It has inspired and
reinforced many other programs.”
USC, Annenberg gifts continue to transform the university and define its
present and future, and not just in a physical sense. His philosophy of excellence,
belief in the necessity of challenge and focus on the future have inspired
change at all levels.
Annenberg invested in this university because he genuinely believed in its
ability to develop programs that are the best in the world,” says Sample.
“I think that’s done a lot to build our confidence. To raise our sights.
To help us reach out and seize opportunities that other universities might
have missed altogether.”
the future brings, one thing is certain, says Sample. “Walter Annenberg’s
legacy will be remembered here for centuries to come.”
The Next Revolution
Kerckhoff Hall, USC Annenberg Center home.
just nine years, the USC Annenberg Center for Communication has emerged as
a hub for cutting-edge communications experimentation.
by John Zollinger
“Every human advancement or reversal can be understood through communication,”
Walter Annenberg said when he laid out the mission of the USC Annenberg School
in 1971. Twenty years later, the ambassador and his family underscored that
sentiment with a $120 million endowment to fund the USC Annenberg Center
on an already strong communications foundation, the center was charged with
creating a unique environment for specialists from across USC to venture
beyond their particular disciplines, collaborate with researchers in other
fields, and use the fruits of their labors to benefit society.
effort is now under full steam, with a wealth of projects drawing the best
and brightest from a wide and diverse selection of university schools and
With the 1993 Annenberg gift – cited in a Los Angeles Times
editorial as “a vote of confidence that USC’s future … will remain bright”
– the center embarked on a three-fold mission: to capitalize on USC’s academic
resources to create an institution focused on communication in the 21st century;
to become a focal point for examination of the profound ethical, social,
technological and economic opportunities and responsibilities posed by communications;
and to concentrate on the experimental, cultural and global aspects of communication
from an interdisciplinary perspective.
center is really about a revolution,” says executive director Elizabeth Daley
– “a revolution in the ways in which people educate, inform and entertain
themselves, and the ways in which they relate with one another.”
For nine years, the USC Annenberg Center has been creating that revolution
through research projects, grants to faculty members, support for visiting
scholars and initiatives based in the three “core schools” the center draws
upon – the USC Annenberg School for Communication, the USC School of Cinema-Television
and the USC School of Engineering.
are interested in interdisciplinary explorations,” says Daley, an award-winning
producer who also serves as dean of the cinema-television school. “And we
want those explorations to be more than a single project. We want them to
somehow create new models.”
A state-of-the-art recording studio supports multimedia projects in the USC Annenberg Center.
Photos courtesy of USC Annenberg Center for Communication
prime example of this is USC’s Communications Critical Pathway (one of four
areas designated by provost Lloyd Armstrong, Jr. as central areas of strength
for the university). The USC Annenberg Center serves as the umbrella organization
for the effort, bringing together faculty and staff from scores of USC schools
and departments to lay out “grand challenges” crying out for scholarly attention.
These challenges run the gamut from ascertaining the impact of communications
technology on society and culture, to probing how communications technology
drives creation and dissemination of knowledge. “The urgency of understanding
these relationships grows with each new link between man and machine,” says
USC Annenberg Center managing director Todd Richmond.
Institute for Multimedia Literacy is another example of the Center’s broad
reach. Begun in 1998 as a pilot program to integrate multimedia teaching,
research and publishing into USC’s undergraduate and graduate curriculum,
IML has since worked with nearly 2,000 students and more than 40 courses.
The institute established partnerships with the Keck School of Medicine of
USC, the USC Rossier School of Education and outside research institutions
such as Caltech and UC Berkeley, as well as local schools such as Jefferson
and students from around and beyond USC are developing modes of understanding
and expression in the language of today’s society,” says institute director
Stephanie Barish – namely, in the evolving vocabulary of multimedia.
USC Annenberg Center efforts include the Labyrinth Project, a research initiative
breaking new ground in interactive narrative modes; Annenberg House, a residential
facility bringing students from USC’s cinema-television, communication and
engineering schools together under one roof; Asian Film Connections, an online
database for Asian cinema; Russian Modernism, a collaborative e-learning
project developed by some of the nation’s leading Slavic studies scholars;
Confronting Convergence, a forthcoming anthology on the democratic development
of new technologies; and the USC Television Service, providing campus-wide
programming and production support for USC Annenberg Center projects.
When the Annenbergs gave USC the $120 million endowment that created the
USC Annenberg Center, part of the funding was intended to serve as seed money
to nurture promising projects. Once established, these important projects,
coupled with the cachet of the Annenberg name, would open the door to additional
outside funding. It’s an approach Walter Annenberg used effectively time
and again in his philanthropy.
time-tested formula reaps rewards at the center: the Institute for Multimedia
Literacy has attracted more than $10 million in grants from Atlantic Philanthropies,
enabling major program expansions; Women Connect! – under the direction of
cinema-TV and communication professor Doe Mayer – secured $1 million from
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the project’s communication-training
efforts directed at rural women in Africa; and a $100,000 grant from the
Rockefeller Foundation has helped finance the latest series of interactive
art collaborations of the Labyrinth Project.
is absolutely no question that the initial and continuing support we have
received from the Annenberg Center has been essential to our success in gaining
further funding,” says religion professor Bruce Zuckerman, who heads up the
InscriptiFact project, a unique image database of ancient texts and objects
accessible online to Middle Eastern studies scholars around the world. Building
on USC Annenberg Center seed money, InscriptiFact has attracted a $750,000
grant from the Mellon Foundation, along with donations from Hewlett-Packard,
Oracle and other private sources.
supporting these projects and initiatives, the center provides annual funding
to the core school deans to promote key communications projects. The USC
Annenberg School for Communication channels this support to the Online Journalism
and Communication Program and Annenberg TV News, which have earned national
recognition for their work in training the journalists of tomorrow. The School
of Cinema-Television applies its portion to the Interactive Media Program,
a cutting-edge master’s program that matriculated its first class this fall.
The School of Engineering uses its share to supplement its Interactive Media
Systems Center, a NSF-sponsored multimedia and Internet research think-tank.
USC Annenberg Center has enormously enriched the life of students at the
USC Annenberg School,” says communication school dean Geoffrey Cowan. The
center “made it possible for us to engage in some research projects and ongoing
activities that wouldn’t have been possible without it.”
Having successfully advanced on several fronts over the past nine years, what does the future hold?
it the Communications Critical Pathway, the Institute for Multimedia Literacy,
the Labyrinth Project, the school-based programs or any of the other groups
the USC Annenberg Center supports, we will continue to foster new directions
for research and education and create new opportunities for the community,
both at USC and beyond,” says Daley.
Principal photography by Philip Channing
The USC Annenberg School’s identifiable edifice, designed by A. Quincy Jones,
professor in and later dean of USC’s School of Architecture.