Gerry Lenfest to Donate Up to $5.8 Million to Save SS United States

Liner History and Social History: Gerry Lenfest to Donate Up to $5.8 Million to Save SS United States

The SS United States Conservancy has announced a gift of up to $5.8 million from Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest to help save the legendary ocean liner from destruction.

Mothballed liner SS United States as seen in Philadelphia from the Ikea Restaurant.

The funds will be used to buy the SS United States from its owner, Norwegian Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Genting Hong Kong, and to maintain the vessel in its current South Philadelphia berth for up to twenty months while redevelopment and refurbishment plans are solidified. The conservancy plans to establish a public-private partnership to own and operate the ship as a multi-purpose stationary attraction. In the meantime, the group will work to develop enhanced capabilities and resources, including new offices in Philadelphia and New York City, an expanded board of directors, a “Blue Riband” Council of influential Americans, and an advisory council of maritime experts and individuals with close ties to the ship.

Since being removed from service in 1969, the SS United States has had several owners. Still the holder of the Blue Riband transatlantic speed record, which it set fifty-eight years ago on the ship’s maiden voyage from New York City to England, the SS United States is widely considered the greatest ocean liner ever built. Indeed, the ship became an icon of its era, transporting four American presidents and numerous other heads of state, military and business leaders, and celebrities in addition to bringing many immigrants to the U.S. The ship was purchased in 2003 with plans to be returned to ocean-going service, although bids from scrappers were accepted in February 2010.

“We are thrilled that the SS United States has received a new lease on life,” said conservancy board president Susan Gibbs, granddaughter of the vessel’s designer, William Francis Gibbs. “This is a game-changer in our work to save this irreplaceable American icon. Mr. Lenfest’s vision and generosity give us a fighting chance to preserve the SS United States for generations to come. We also want to recognize the support of Norwegian/Genting. They first listed the ship for sale in early 2009 and turned down higher offers to partner with us in this patriotic effort.”

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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