2019 Citizens of the Year: Barbara and Wally Weitz


Wally and Barb are people who are
committed — extremely generous, unassuming and unpretentious — I think he has worn
the same plaid shirt forever. — Rooted in the community, Barb of course was born
and raised here. Wally came along, you know, even though he grew up in New
Orleans. They were married when he was 21. We might use the phrase, “deep speaks to
deep.” They shared the same purposeful sense of doing good in the world and
making a difference and building community where they were.
She loved the university. She was a professor at the university. Wally
graduated from Carleton in 1970 and he came to New York to work with the firm.
Wally also had a great desire to work the markets. That was in his blood. One of the things he agonized over was would it be all right for me to go into the
markets, make some money and ultimately turn around and do good that way. The
business grew. I think a big turning point for him in the business versus
doing good came around the year 2000 when he formed the Weitz Family
Foundation. They were ready to organize their capacity to do good in the
community. They’ve kind of centered into what
matters to them: children, women, education, the arts. Barb and Wally were really
the catalyst for a change movement in North Omaha – certainly change in how we
understood housing issues, what that meant for children. That reached her and
him in a powerful way. When they invested their time and energy into helping
Family Housing develop a center in a really nice place for people to come,
then we’re able to sort of mobilize groups of people to build housing. That
changes things. It says to other people, “Well if that can happen, what else can
happen?” The sense of community in the classroom
was further developed through the development of the service-learning
academy. The significance of the service learning academy and the civic
engagement center — It’s phenomenal. It engages students at a time when many
students are very idealistic and want to give to the community, but
haven’t figured out exactly how in their young adult lives. What then happens is
a program gets developed, things change. It’s just evolved and
evolved in how we can solve the problems of the community – to recruit people to
this community, because this is a good place to live. Keeping education
accessible to all students is a major issue for Barb — and I think that’s why
Barb brand for Regent. United Way’s efforts, in terms of
analyzing the needs of the community as well as wanting the community to come
together to respond to those needs, are exactly the kinds of things that Barb
and Wally stand for. It matters a lot to them to break the barriers of exclusion.
They are all about bringing as many people on board as possible. When they’re all together as a family they share deeply about all of these things and
really empowers people to do their own thing. I think they would say, you know,
“This is a song that’s not about me – this isn’t about us. We are citizens all
together here in a place that we can make better if we just take that
citizenship responsibility seriously.” You don’t have to be a big deal to do
good. You just need to do good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *