Leonore Annenberg, the billionaire philanthropist carrying on the work of her husband, Walter, will receive the prestigious Philadelphia Award in June.
The award, started in 1921 by Ladies Home Journal publisher Edward W. Bok, is given annually to a person in the Philadelphia region who worked to better the area.
Bok said, "The idea of service as a test of good citizenship should be kept constantly before the minds of the people of Philadelphia."
Annenberg, in a statement yesterday, said she was honored.
"Civic opportunity and responsibility are the core of a successful democracy," she said. "It is a delight to see this great city flourish as a world-class center for the arts, education and medicine."
Annenberg, 89, will receive the award in a June 18 ceremony at the Academy of Music, one of the many local institutions she has financially supported and helped to guide.
Annenberg received the Academy of Music's 150th Anniversary Award in January from Prince Charles. Her husband, who died in 2002, was the U.S. ambassador to England from 1969 to 1974.
Annenberg requested that Gov. Rendell deliver the keynote speech at her award ceremony.
Rendell and Mayor Street won the award in 1995, when Rendell was mayor and Street was president of City Council.
Other recipients include Annenberg's husband, in 1993; former Mayor Richardson Dilworth, in 1967; and city planner Edmund Bacon, in 1983.
"Leonore Annenberg is an exemplary civic leader whose public-mindedness embodies the very spirit of the Philadelphia award," Rendell said yesterday in a statement. "This prestigious award recognizes the recipient's commitment to improving the life of the entire community. I can think of no one more worthy of this honor."
The Philadelphia Award winner is selected by a board of trustees, chaired by Happy Craven Fernandez, president of the Moore College of Art & Design.
"The trustees are a broad cross-section of people with connections and understandings of diverse areas of the city and region," said Fernandez, adding that candidates' names are submitted in an open nomination process that often leads to difficult deliberations. "Every year, you have way too many qualified people. It's a way to see the wealth of leadership and talent and civic commitment in this region."
The Rev. W. Wilson Goode, the former mayor, is one of 14 trustees who chose Annenberg. He cited her "incredible generosity over the years," especially her support of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Constitution Center.
"I just think those things are just so key and critical to the city," Goode said. "And that she did not have to be involved but she was. She has reached out to help this city in ways that no one else could."
Annenberg is chairwoman of the Annenberg Foundation, founded in 1989 with $1.2 billion to spend on charitable causes. The assets came from the sale of the last of Annenberg's media properties, which once included the Daily News and Inquirer.
The Annenberg Foundation was lauded in December for putting up $10 million to keep the Thomas Eakins painting "The Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia after plans to sell it were announced by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The Annenberg Foundation, in a 2005 report published for its 15th anniversary, said it had made 5,200 grants for a combined $2.8 billion during that time. *