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New $30-million Annenberg scholarship program to aid artists, students and schools

Artists on the cusp of national renown, college-bound students who have overcome tremendous obstacles and impoverished elementary schools will be the recipients of $30 million in scholarships and grants, part of a new three-pronged philanthropic initiative by Leonore Annenberg.

The awards, to be spread over 10 years, were announced today in Philadelphia, the residence for many years of Mrs. Annenberg and her late husband, Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg.  The award program will be administered by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

In recent years, Mrs. Annenberg has made transformative grants to some of the nation’s best-known cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra.  She and her late husband also have been long-time supporters of education at all levels, including major gifts to Penn, the University of Southern California, Brown University and other institutions.

The grants announced today represent a different focus, targeting young people who possess the potential to become the cultural and community leaders of the next generation.

“These grants reinforce the goodness and integrity of young people, the wellspring of talented early-career professionals in the arts and the sacrifice and selflessness of teachers, principals and staff who support elementary school students in the most dire of circumstances,” said Gail Levin, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, who announced the awards.

“Mrs. Annenberg hopes that the recipients of these awards will be prepared to return the benefits of this support by serving as leaders in their fields and by energizing the communities in which they live and work.”

The grants will come from three separate endowments at Penn: The Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund in the Performing and Visual Arts, the Leonore Annenberg College Scholarship Fund and the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children.  All grants are made on an invitation-only basis.

The Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund in the Performing and Visual Arts has provided 10 grants totaling $1.5 million in the first year. The Leonore Annenberg College Scholarship Fund has awarded all-expense scholarships to six students, the value of which will be determined when the recipients – who are now high school juniors – select where they will study.  The third fund, the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children, will award grants totaling $1 million to nine impoverished schools around the country to assist the schools in acquiring items as basic as books and playground equipment.

Recipients of Leonore Annenberg Fellowships in the Performing and Visual Arts include:

  • Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, a recent Juilliard School graduate who made her Metropolitan Opera debut last fall.
  • Photographer Richard Mosse, a May graduate of the Yale School of Art’s masters program and global traveler.
  • André Holland, an actor whose performances have won acclaim from New York critics.
  • Daniel Visconti, a composer at the American Academy in Berlin who is this year’s winner of the Berlin Prize in Music Composition.
  • Actor Jeremy Strong, who won accolades for his performance as Spinoza in “New Jerusalem.”

The four-year college scholarship recipients include:

  • Shiyah Trotman, a junior at the Urban Assembly School for Law & Justice in Brooklyn, N.Y.,  whose teacher wrote “I do not have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe what an outstanding young man Shiyah is.”
  • Joivonnah Childs, a junior at Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, who each year sets high goals for herself academically and personally, and exceeds them every time by a wide margin.
  • Chevone Boone, a high school junior in rural Gaston, N.C., who believes that “if you work hard, then good things will happen.”
  • Brittany Blythe, who has overcome physical and personal setbacks to become a leader at Strath Haven High School in suburban Philadelphia. “I do not believe in self-pity,” she says, “so when the deck is stacked against me, I just play a different game.”
  • Areej Hassan, a native of Sudan who arrived in the U.S. as a fourth grader unable to speak English.  Today, her mentor writes, Areej is an exceptional scholar and leader who serves as “a ray of promising light” to her fellow students and family in Philadelphia.   

Among the elementary schools receiving grants are:

  • South Hancock Elementary in Bay St. Louis, Miss., where half the students are still homeless from Hurricane Katrina. The school will replace a computer lab destroyed by the storm.P.S. 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the funds will be used for a book room.
  • Blanche Kelso Bruce Elementary  School, Houston, a music magnet school in a poor neighborhood. The school will purchase musical instruments for students.
  • Anna B. Pratt Elementary in Philadelphia, where new playground equipment will give neighborhood children a place to play.

About Leonore Annenberg:

Leonore Annenberg is a former Chief of Protocol for the United States. She is a trustee emerita of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a member of the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, former member of the trustee’s council of The National Gallery of Art, a managing director of The Metropolitan Opera, and an honorary president of the American Friends of the British Museum.

Mrs. Annenberg, who resides in Rancho Mirage, California, is chairman and president of the Annenberg Foundation.  She and her late husband, Walter H. Annenberg, former Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, founded the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the Annenberg Schools for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California.

She is a graduate of Stanford University.