Jennings Remembered for Philanthropy, Charitable Works

In some ways, Peter Jennings was like many well-known people -- using his prominence and prosperity to raise money for charity. Jennings, however, much preferred to be a workhorse rather than a show horse.

Every year, he hosted a jazz benefit for a childcare center and a charity auction to raise money for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

He allowed cameras to follow him around the benefit for the homeless. But when the cameras weren't rolling, he went out -- in both the freezing cold and blazing heat -- to deliver food to those in need.

"What's probably most poignant is remembering the faces, and how they would light up," said Mary Brosnahan Sullivan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "They were so taken that Peter would take time out of his day and give them their meal."

Jennings used the power of his wallet to help build a charter school in Newark, N.J., and he also spent time with the children there.

"I thought he was the real deal," said Khairaah Davis, a student at the school. "He showed us that you should always be yourself, even if you're famous, if you have a lot of money, or even if you're poor."

"He always told me to never give up, always fulfill your dream, never let anyone tell you that you can never do something," said Ty'kia Hay, another student.

That was a recurring theme for a man who made it to the top of his profession, but never made it through high school.

Jennings' Personal Touch

When he volunteered to hand out awards to older students going back for their high school diplomas, he memorized their names and personal histories.

"Ruth -- boy, it must have been crowded in your house. Seventeen kids!" Peter told Ruth Adams at her graduation.

She was amazed.

"When he said to me, 'Ruth your house must have been very crowded,' I was shocked that he really read my essay," she said.

Adams, originally from Barbados, went back to school after 30 years.

When she met Jennings, she was struggling in school and considering dropping out. He told her not to give up.

"When I heard him say, 'Don't give up,' those were miracle words for me," she said. "With all the doubt that I was going through, I actually felt my spirits soar when he said, 'Don't give up.' "

One thing we heard repeatedly was that Jennings did not do charity because he thought he had to.

"The thought that comes to mind when I think of Peter Jennings is that he's a man who walks with kings but didn't lose the common touch," said Adams.

"You've added another chapter to the great American story, and you will add more," Peter once told the students at the Newark school. "I am very proud to be with you."

ABC News' Dan Harris filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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