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Moore advances urban teaching with Weilers' gift

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
Mon, 2013-08-12 14:04

Weiler Gift Advances Urban Teaching with Moore’s Guidance

Robert J. “Bob” Weiler and his wife, Missy Weiler, believe education is the answer to many of our country’s problems. “We like to think that everybody has an equal opportunity when it comes to what life has to offer,” Bob explained, “but it can be totally unequal. Still, some social ills can be overcome by a well-educated urban student body.”

James L. Moore III, EHE distinguished professor of urban education and the university’s associate provost in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, sees eye to eye with the Weilers. Moore is an internationally recognized expert in strategies to support the success of minority students, especially males, in urban schools and communities.

Intrigued by Moore’s research, the Weilers decided to make a five-year gift to support his work. Their contribution will also fund scholarships for undergraduate students who are passionate about and committed to being educators in urban settings.

Bob Weiler has a twofold vision for the gift. “I would like more minority college students to choose the classroom to serve as role models for the next generation. I’m also hoping kids now in high school will learn about this opportunity, elect to enter education at Ohio State, and have their lives touched by Dr. Moore. My real hope is to increase the percentage of minorities going to college.”

Moore will guide the awarding of the Weiler Scholarships to undergraduate students and personally mentor them throughout their degrees. He will find extra teaching opportunities for them and give them feedback to hone their skills. They will travel to see high-quality pedagogy and teaching in urban centers.

Having been a language arts teacher, a school counselor, a district-level administrator, a counselor educator, and a senior-level higher education administrator, Moore brings skills that will benefit teachers in training. “The Weiler grant will complement what the students receive from the faculty and staff in the college’s teacher preparation program,” he said. “There can be some strong synergies.”

Bringing added value to improve quality of life

Moore also sees the Weiler gift as the start of many great things. He expects to engage the Weiler Scholars in his research with his doctoral students, providing them with multiple perspectives in teaching and problem solving through quality research. ”As we gather results, Ohio State is in a great position to share those findings through outreach,” Moore said. “We can lend our intellectual capital to show how to improve our school systems, especially for students of color.”

“I’m hoping to create a synergy, on campus and statewide, that plays a key role in improving urban youngsters’ quality of life. It takes gifts from very special donors like the Weilers to create such a synergy. I’m hoping policymakers will see Ohio State as a major resource for improving our schools, especially in urban areas, and want to join us.”

Commitment to education runs deep in the Weiler family

Bob Weiler’s family inspired his dedication to public education. His mother, a native of Columbus, attended Smith College and was a Columbus teacher before her marriage. His father graduated from Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania. “Growing up, my older brother and I knew we were going to college,” Weiler said. “My mom let us know how privileged we were.”

So why did the Bexley-raised Ohioan choose the University of Arizona for his bachelor’s degree? “It was one of the few universities in the 1950s offering a real estate major,” Weiler explained.

Bob met the Chicago-born Missy in college and the pair married. The Buckeye state called him back to his roots, though, to fulfill his dream of going into business with his dad at his commercial real estate firm. Bob and Missy settled in Columbus’ Eastmoor, a diverse family neighborhood where people of different backgrounds and socioeconomic status mingled. The Weilers live in the same home today.

When their four children entered Fairmoor Elementary, Bob and Missy became active in the PTA. Thus began Missy’s more than four decades of volunteering for urban schools in Columbus. “It’s in her DNA,” Bob said. “When it comes to education, she’s the real hero in the family.”

Missy spends time twice weekly in a Columbus City Schools (CCS) building. She’s in her element when tutoring children, supporting their academic growth and encouraging them.

Bob, now chairman of the board of The Robert Weiler Company, has also dedicated personal time to public education. During the 1980s, he spent the better part of seven years on the CCS Board of Education. He learned about the needs of the district’s young people and how to make a difference in their lives.

Thanks to his knowledge, he and several like-minded advocates founded I Know I Can, one of the largest and most successful college access programs in the country. “Our theme is that every Columbus City Schools graduate who wants to go to college will not be denied for lack of funding,” Weiler said.

“We educate the parents, help them fill out the federal education grant forms, and encourage the kids, now down into middle school. We emphasize the many more doors that open when you are a college graduate.”

Over the years, many of the high school students helped by the program returned to visit. Weiler finds nothing more rewarding than to hear them say, “But for I Know I Can, I wouldn’t have gone to college.”

Bob is also a role model to the students, having invested energy in his own education. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he added an MA in Real Estate in 1964 from what is now the Fisher College of Business, and then a PhD in Finance in 1968. Not content to stop there, he entered Capital University Law School and received a JD in 1983. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar that same year.

Passing on the appreciation of public education to the next generation

The Weiler children inherited their parents’ dedication to supporting urban education. Eldest daughter Dawn volunteers in the CCS, helping teachers with their projects. Jill is a teacher at a public charter school in Washington, DC, and the younger son, Jim, has been a teacher for more than 15 years. For 7 of those years, he’s been a senior lecturer of social studies education at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.

Robert Weiler Jr., known as Skip, followed his father into The Robert Weiler Company, joining in 1985. He now carries on the company legacy as President. He, too, volunteers in the schools as a speaker.

The entire Weiler family is excited by the difference they are sure Moore will make. “I feel we really need more African American role models, particularly males, for our public school students,” Bob said. “It’s a real challenge for our kids to imagine what they can become unless they can look up to people who give them the desire and motivation to stay in school. They need to believe, ‘Those opportunities are there for me, too.’

“That’s why we know we are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Moore, who is uniquely qualified as the right person at the right time for us.”

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