In the summer of 1987, 112 students from the Belmont Elementary School in West Philadelphia gathered in a hot auditorium for a sixth-grade graduation. Most were from families on public assistance. All were African-American. Diane Weiss — carrying out mission of her husband George, who was sidelined with bad back — told the students that they would all have a free college education.
By 1999 the Weisses had spent more than $5 million on tutoring, counseling, social services and university expense. And while some suggested the payoff — fewer than 20 degrees and certificates — didn’t meet with the expense, but Weiss — who founded a self-named money-management firm in Hartford, Conn., in 1978 — felt it was worth each penny. He also learned invaluable lessons which allowed him to establish Say Yes To Education, which funds high-poverty students in both Syracuse and Buffalo and plans to expand to another city soon.
“I have long felt that education is the key to making a difference in the world,” Weiss said in a press release about a large faculty donation to his alma mater University of Pennsylvania in 2010.
At Penn, Weiss is a charter trustee and vice chair of the Executive Committee of the Board. Over the years, he has given more than $80 million to the University for endowed professorships, a deanship, endowed scholarships, the Weiss Tech House and the Weiss Center for International Financial Research at the Wharton School.
Additionally, Weiss is a trustee of Penn Medicine, member of the Penn Medicine executive committee and Trustee Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania; he chaired the University Committee for Undergraduate Financial Aid, and served on the Athletics Advisory Board. He received the 1985 Alumni Award of Merit in recognition of his dedicated service to Penn. He received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Lesley College in 1990 as well as Colby-Sawyer College in 1994. He has received numerous humanitarian and community service awards including the University Medal for Distinguished service, and the Marine Corps Foundation Semper Fidelis Award.