Parking & Points
January 25, 2015
Courtesy of MGoBlue.com
By Steve Kornacki
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The $50 million gift to the University of Michigan by Ambassador Ronald N. Weiser and his wife, Eileen L. Weiser, was celebrated before and during Saturday’s (Jan. 24) men’s basketball game against the University of Wisconsin.
The Weisers, both Michigan graduates, designated the Athletic Department as one of the six units on campus to benefit from the donation. It was announced that the new Crisler Center Club and renovated Crisler Center North Tunnel will be named in honor of the Weisers.
“This is a legacy for the Weiser family,” said Ron Weiser. “Our five grandchildren, three children and their two spouses were with us at the game when we were honored.”
The Weisers hope their donation will spark more giving to the university-wide Victors for Michigan campaign, which kicked off in 2013 with a goal of raising $4 billion. The Weisers are Vice Chairs on the Campaign Leadership Board.
“We hope this gift will have a positive impact on the U-M and longer-term, improve multiple aspects of society,” said Ron Weiser. “We hope it also encourages others to support the University, as we have, ‘until it feels good.’
“It was indicated to us that named gifts are helpful in motivating support from others. We want our children and grandchildren to recognize the importance of giving back. We believe it’s important for donors to involve their extended families in learning about and understanding why philanthropy is important in society.
“Michigan supplied me with the tools and the background that helped me attain the success I have over the years. And having lived in Ann Arbor for more than 50 years, I’ve had the opportunity to experience not only how the University affects my family and me, but also all the kids that pass through campus.”
Weiser, appointed the U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, 2001-04, by President George W. Bush, founded McKinley Inc., a national real estate investment company in Ann Arbor in 1968, just two years after graduating from Michigan.
“I know first-hand the commitment and balance it takes to succeed academically while competing for the University of Michigan,” said Weiser. “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.
“There are only 900-some student-athletes on campus, but they are a group that helps bind together the entire graduate and under-graduate community and alumni around the world. It’s why athletics are so important to the fabric of the community.”
Weiser wrestled as a freshman in the 157-pound weight class behind Rick Bay, who never lost a Big Ten dual match and was an All-American. Weiser decided to focus on academics and several part-time jobs beginning with his sophomore year.
“I had a job in a South Quad snack bar and Cazzie Russell lived in the hall across from me,” said Weiser, mentioning the All-American basketball player credited with necessitating the building of Crisler Arena.
The Weisers’ $50 million gift has $25 million designated for the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies in the International Institute of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
The School of Education; the U-M Health System, the University Music Society; and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business also will benefit from the donation. The Weisers have two grandchildren with severe food allergies — so they are supporting the Food Allergy Center they helped create which will be located at the Mott Children’s Hospital.
Eileen Lappin Weiser, with a master’s degree in piano performance from Michigan, is a past executive director of the McKinley Foundation and served eight years on the National Assessment Governing Board. She is in her second, eight-year term on Michigan’s State Board of Education, and has served on numerous other civic boards.