Peter Lehman Buttenwieser, 82, an educational consultant and a major fundraiser for progressive causes, died Feb. 4 of acute myeloid leukemia at his home in Chestnut Hill.

Mr. Buttenwieser served for nearly 25 years as an educational consultant working with foundations to deal with the problems faced by poor and minority children in public schools across the country. Earlier he had co-founded and served as principal/director of the Durham Child Development Center, an innovative public school in Philadelphia

During the course of his career, he had taught in New York City, Uganda, and North Carolina, where he was director of the North Carolina Advancement School. He also had been director of the Pennsylvania Advancement School.

Mr. Buttenwieser became increasingly involved in Democratic politics to emerge as one of the most effective fundraisers for Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate. He gave more than 100 lunches for both Democratic challengers and incumbents, raising nearly $8 million and making Philadelphia a sought-after destination for Democratic candidates.

He was one of the first Democratic party activists to suggest that then-Senator Barack Obama set his sights upon the presidency and was a prominent supporter and fundraiser during Obama’s historic 2008 campaign. He also was a consistent supporter of political change in the South, where his involvement ranged from supporting Harvey Gantt’s candidacy to unseat Sen. Jessie Helms in 1990 to working with the NAACP and others in Mississippi to pass a state constitutional amendment in 2015 to fully fund America’s poorest public schools.

Mr. Buttenwieser directed his own philanthropy to those most in need. During the height of the AIDS epidemic, he was one of the first to support AIDS clinics in rural communities where the disease carried the worst stigma. He also served on the boards of Emily’s List to advance women candidates and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

He was known for being kind and generous to people in helping roles that are often overlooked, from housekeeping staff at hotels to parking valets to wait staff or to the UPS delivery person, and this particular warmth was a defining trait. Much of the work he did was quiet and behind the scenes, and he felt most comfortable in mentorship roles.

Born in New York City, he was a graduate of the Dalton School, the Putney School,  and Columbia College. He received a master’s degree in history from Harvard University and a doctorate in education from Columbia University Teachers College.

He was an avid tennis player, a game he played with a fierce competitiveness.

He is survived by his wife, Terry Ann Marek; daughters Sarah Buttenwieser and Julie Suh; a stepdaughter, Emily Edwards; brothers Lawrence and Paul; and 10 grandchildren. A sister, Carol Buttenwieser Loeb, died in 1955.

A memorial service will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to Palliative Care at Penn Medicine (online at or by check made out to “Penn Medicine”) and mailed to:Penn Medicine Development, Attn: Kelly McBride, 3535 Market Street, Suite 750, Philadelphia, PA 19104. – WF