Before a crowd of 600 students and scholarship donors gathered for the annual scholarship celebration, Penn Trustee George A. Weiss gave President Amy Gutmann the surprise of her Penn life: a $14 million check in support of undergraduate financial aid. Visibly moved, President Gutmann summed up the significance of the moment: “This check is not for me and it is not for Penn—it is for all the young men and women who can realize their dreams because of what George Weiss is making possible.”
This latest gift brings Mr. Weiss’ total giving to Penn’s upcoming campaign to $20 million, $14 million of which will be used to create a special challenge program designed to encourage extraordinary donors—“Men and Women of Pennsylvania”—to contribute $2 million each to undergraduate financial aid. Mr. Weiss, a 1965 graduate of Wharton is one of the co-chairs of the upcoming campaign and the mastermind behind the undergraduate scholarship initiative. “We have made tremendous progress in raising money for scholarships, but there’s so much more we need to do,” said Mr. Weiss. “The bright, impassioned students we see all around this campus are the best reminders of what this is all about. It’s about promise. It’s about opportunity. It’s about the future. We simply can’t fail.”
Increasing access to Penn is one of three priorities of President Gutmann’s Penn Compact, her plan for propelling the University from excellence to eminence. “Nothing is more important to fulfilling the promise of our country than educational opportunity,” said the President, “and no one understands that better than George Weiss. When we give talented students of high potential access to the great education that Penn can offer, we advance, in the most important way, the ideals of a democratic society.”
Mr. Weiss, who presented his $14 million gift in an envelope inscribed with the words, “Have a nice day, Amy!”, has given what now totals more than $58 million to a wide variety of Penn priorities. In addition to undergraduate scholarships, he has supported the Weiss Tech House, one of Penn’s innovative interdisciplinary initiatives; the Weiss Center for International Financial Research at the Wharton School; endowed professorships; a deanship; and intercollegiate athletics (Almanac February 6, 2001).
In sharing what motivates his giving, Mr. Weiss recalled the late Walter Annenberg: “We were at a board meeting, and he made an extraordinary and unexpected contribution to Penn. I was among those who gave him a standing ovation. His response stays with me today. He said, ‘It is simply a matter of good citizenship.’”
Mr. Weiss is president of George Weiss Associates, Inc., a money management firm with offices in Hartford, Connecticut, and New York. He is known throughout the country as the founder of the nationally recognized Say Yes to Education program that combines academic support and intervention with an offer to pay college tuition or vocational training costs for inner city students. The program was launched in West Philadelphia in 1987 and has grown to include more than 768 students in four cities. Say Yes is based at the Graduate School of Education.
At Penn, Mr. Weiss is a charter trustee, a member of the Athletic Advisory Board, chair of Penn’s Committee on Undergraduate Financial Aid, and co-chair of the University’s upcoming campaign. He is also to parent of two Penn graduates, Deborah Weiss, C ’89, and Allison Weiss, C ’93, and holds Penn’s highest alumni honor, the Award of Merit, in recognition of his unwavering loyalty to the University.
Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 12, November 15, 2005