Low Plaza

H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest and Marguerite Give Law School $15M to Build New Student Residence Hall

By Jennifer Shotz

Columbia Law School has received a gift of $15 million from H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, an alumnus of the class of 1958, and his wife, Marguerite, to create Lenfest Hall, a Law School student residence to be built on 121st St. between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive.

Lenfest Hall, to be completed by fall 2003, is the most recent example of the school's ongoing efforts to renovate and upgrade its facilities, bringing the school's infrastructure on par with the intellectual excellence of its students, faculty and the exceptional education the Law School provides.

With the completion of Lenfest Hall, Columbia Law School will have invested more than $100 million in the improvement and expansion of its facilities since 1995. The building furthers the school's substantial commitment to both American and international students, many of whom increasingly desire to live near the Law School in the thriving neighborhood of Morningside Heights. The residence hall will share its site with a second building, the new home of the School of Social Work.

"The Law School is thrilled with this location for additional student housing, and delighted to have as our neighbor another great Columbia professional school," said David Leebron, dean of the Law School. "Not only are we creating almost 25 percent more living space for our students, but we're helping to build a residential community that will add to the character of Morningside Heights. Availability of housing is an important factor in the decision of students from around the world to come to Columbia, and Lenfest Hall will help assure that the very best students continue to choose Columbia for their legal education."

With the construction of the new residence hall, Columbia Law School also will make a contribution to the community by turning an undeveloped site into a residential facility in keeping with the surrounding architecture that will enhance the neighborhood.

Gerry Lenfest is president of Lenfest Communications, a company principally involved in national satellite promotion of cable programming, digital satellite distribution, and cable advertising and market promotion. In January 2000, the company sold its cable television operations—among the ten largest cable television companies in the United States—to the Comcast Corporation. Lenfest also is the principal shareholder and chairman of the board of a company involved in telephone automatic number identification for cable television pay-per-view applications, and owns various other businesses in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Rhode Island.

A graduate of Washington and Lee University (BA '53) and Columbia Law School, Lenfest practiced law at the New York firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell before becoming corporate counsel of Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications in 1965. In 1970, he was made managing director of the company's communications division consisting of Seventeen magazine and Triangle's cable television properties. In 1974, he started Lenfest Communications with the purchase of two cable television companies from Annenberg.

Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite, were 12th on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's 60 Most Generous Donors of 2000 list for their gifts totaling $65 million to various institutions (not including the gift to the Law School). Lenfest has been active in Law School affairs since his graduation, and received the School's Distinguished Achievement Award in 1997. He is permanent president of his class, and has served on his class fund committee since 1963. He served on the Columbia Law School Board of Visitors from 1988 to 2000, and the Law School Association Board from 1969 to 1973. Lenfest was recently appointed to the newly established Dean's Council of the Law School.

This gift from the Lenfest family represents the second multimillion gift received recently by the Law School for capital projects: In November 2000, the Jerome L. Greene Foundation gave the school $12 million to renovate the first floor lecture halls and create a media control center in Jerome L. Greene Hall. Renovations on Greene Hall will begin this summer.

Published: May 18, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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