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Columbia Trustee Lenfest Pledges $30 Million for Arts Building

Nov. 18 -- (Bloomberg) -- H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a Columbia University trustee, has pledged $30 million toward the construction of an arts building at the school’s new campus, the largest gift ever for the arts at the Ivy League institution.

The gift from Lenfest, a Columbia Law School graduate, was announced by the university at a dinner last night honoring the 81-year-old former cable company owner.

The donation will provide a funding source for the third building on the new campus, under construction in the West Harlem area known as Manhattanville. The arts center will be named for Lenfest, who already has given more than $100 million to the university in New York, making him one of the school’s most generous donors.

“The breadth of Gerry Lenfest’s philanthropy and generosity to Columbia is truly remarkable,” Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia’s president, said in a statement. The gift “ensures that our thriving School of the Arts will finally have a facility that matches its astonishing creativity and the university will have a vital new space for engagement in the robust cultural life of Harlem.”

The building will include a theater, space for readings, symposia and rehearsals, and an outdoor plaza, according to Carol Becker, dean of the arts school. The 53,000-square-foot structure will be designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

“It’s for people to come in and see productions and see films,” Becker said. “It’s going to be beautiful and light and welcoming.”

$6 Billion Campus

The 17-acre campus, which will cost more than $6 billion to develop, also will house science and business-school facilities.

Henry Kravis, the billionaire co-founder of private-equity firm KKR & Co., pledged $100 million to fund expansion of Columbia Business School, the largest gift in its history.

The first building on the Manhattanville campus, the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, will focus on research of the human brain and is expected to open by 2015.

Lenfest, a graduate of Washington and Lee University, became corporate counsel of Walter Annenberg’s Triangle Publications in 1965. He started Lenfest Communications in 1974 with the purchase of two cable-television companies from Annenberg. The company was sold to Comcast Corp. in 2000, according to Columbia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Perlberg in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Kaufman at

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