Ambassador Ronald N. Weiser and Eileen L. Weiser have made a $50 million gift to the University of Michigan.
The gift reflects the couple’s significant involvement with the International Institute in LSA, the School of Education, the Athletic Department, the U-M Health System, the University Musical Society, and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
The gift marks a significant contribution to the universitywide Victors for Michigan campaign, which kicked off in 2013 with a goal of raising $4 billion. The Weisers, both U-M alumni, are vice chairs on the Campaign Leadership Board.
“The Weisers’ very generous gift reflects their involvement throughout the university. Their support of emerging democracies, health care, teacher preparation, business education, the arts, and athletics is a tremendous vote of confidence in our work. This gift demonstrates their understanding of the need to provide opportunities for our students,” President Mark S. Schlissel said.
Investigating free societies
The gift includes $25 million designated to the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies in the International Institute. The WCED studies how democracies emerge, the conditions necessary for assuring and extending political, social, and economic freedom, and how autocracies endure in Europe, Eurasia, and beyond.
The Weisers have long been committed to the study of emerging democracies, an interest that deepened in 2001-04 when Ron Weiser was tapped by President George W. Bush to serve as the ambassador to Slovakia, a country that faced considerable challenges in its transition to a democracy.
“When I was working with the Slovaks, I realized there are no books written, no roadmap, for a country to transition from an authoritarian government to a free society,” Weiser said.
“Studying countries that have made the successful transition to democracy gives us an opportunity to help nations that are in the process of transitioning. We’re talking about people having the opportunity to come out from under the thumb of authoritarian rule, and with that freedom to have a better life for themselves and their children, as well as freedom from fear of their government, their police, and even their neighbors.”
In 2008, the Weisers donated $10 million to help establish the WCED as well as the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia. The centers promote faculty and student research of democratic and authoritarian regimes, host policymakers and researchers, organize conferences, and provide fellowships for the next generation of scholars who can apply their learning and experience in studying emerging democracies.
With the additional $25 million gift announced Thursday, the WCED will be able to branch out to other parts of the world, collaborate with other schools and programs at U-M, and expand the international scholarship and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
“This tremendous support will allow us to build an even more vibrant and dynamic research community and expand our thematic and geographic focus,” said Anna Grzymala-Busse, director of the WCED and WCEE.
The WCED and WCEE will eventually be housed in the newly renamed Weiser Hall, formerly the Dennison Building.
Supporting academics and the arts
At the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, the Weisers’ gift will establish an endowed fund to support the Weiser Family Entrepreneurship Awards and support the highly successful Multidisciplinary Action Projects — learning experiences that connect MBA students with corporations and organizations around the world to develop solutions to business challenges. It will also contribute toward Ross School’s new and remodeled buildings, now under construction.
In the School of Education, their gift will support two goals of the TeachingWorks program: establishing rigorous standards for entry to the teaching profession, and creating partnerships with teacher preparation programs for improved teacher candidate preparation.
TeachingWorks will be working collaboratively with teacher preparation institutions to implement and refine approaches that will help beginning teachers be skillful with high leverage practices around core academic content. The Michigan network will be one of TeachingWorks’ first groups as this newly inaugurated program is launched, and will help to refine and develop a prototype for work in other states.
The Weisers’ gift to the University Musical Society will add to the Michael Kondziolka Artistic Leadership Fund. Kondziolka is director of programming and production.
This fund will help to ensure the resources necessary to research the best creative work worldwide, sustain and build upon long-term relationships with cherished artists, and undertake other initiatives necessary to keep UMS as one of the best presenters in its field.
Support for student-athletes
In Athletics, the Weisers’ gift will help fund world-class facilities for U-M’s more than 900 student-athletes. Ron Weiser was a student-athlete himself, wrestling on behalf of the Wolverines.
“I know first-hand the commitment and balance it takes to succeed academically while competing for the University of Michigan,” he said. “This gift will help build facilities that focus on the holistic student-athlete, which is an investment in their athletic experience and their academic success.”
The new Crisler Center Club and renovated Crisler Center North Tunnel will be named in honor of the Weisers’ generosity.
Advancing a path to cure food allergies
The Weisers also are making a gift to accelerate the development and widen the mission of the U-M Health System’s Food Allergy Center.
The Weisers join their son, Marc, and his wife, Mary, in support of the center. Marc and Mary Weiser are passionate advocates and major contributors to the center, with Mary Weiser serving as the chair of its advisory board.
Two of the couple’s grandchildren have been diagnosed with severe food allergies, part of an epidemic that impacts approximately eight percent of the children in the United States. Fifteen million people struggle to manage this disease every day. Severity is on the rise and there is still no cure.
The U-M Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has been at the forefront of food allergy care and research for more than 20 years. The Food Allergy Center will expand access for specialized care, build clinical expertise, creating a national destination for patients with nowhere else to turn — and conduct groundbreaking research.
A greatly expanded multidisciplinary team of world-class scientists will lead transformative research efforts that can produce new discoveries and treatments as well as determine why this disease is expanding exponentially.
U-M’s talented Medical School students will train alongside the outstanding faculty.
A future designation
A substantial part of the $50 million gift will be designated at a future time by the Weisers as they learn more about the most important needs of the many schools, colleges, and centers at the university.
About the Weisers
Ronald Weiser graduated with honors in 1966 from U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business and did graduate work in business and law. In 1968, he founded McKinley Associates Inc., a national real estate investment company and served as its chairman and CEO until 2001, when he became U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic.
He currently serves on the boards of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, The Henry Ford, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the advisory board of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School, the advisory board of the university’s Food Allergy Center, and is vice chair of the Victors for Michigan campaign.
He was national finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2011-13, and chair of the Michigan Republican Party from 2009-11.
With a master’s degree in piano performance from U-M in 1975, Eileen Lappin Weiser has served on the University Musical Society Board of Directors, is a member of the UMS Senate, and is vice chair of the Victors for Michigan campaign.
She is a past executive director of the McKinley Foundation, and served for eight years on the National Assessment Governing Board. She is serving her second, eight-year term on Michigan’s State Board of Education.
Eileen Weiser is on the board of the Michigan Science Center and works to advance the arts, digital learning and STEM education in Michigan’s K-12 schools. She also has served as a board member for numerous other community education, arts, and civic affairs organizations.