Prominent University supporter dies at age 91

By Christina Oddo

Staff Writer

Janet Weis, an active member of the University community and an active resident of central Pennsylvania, passed away on Monday, Jan. 3, at the age of 91. Her life accomplishments are myriad and extremely admirable.

“Many people do not realize that she was a published author,” former University president Gary Sojka said. Weis wrote travel columns for the Standard Journal and The Daily Item.

She also published three books. “Two were ‘romances’ and the third, which was published by the Bucknell University Press with a forward by me, was a compilation of some of her more interesting travel columns,” Sojka said.

Weis was greatly interested in classical music, jazz, dance and theatre, and greatly respected lectures. Janet incorporated her love of jazz into the development of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts. She combined her passion for jazz with her commitment to child welfare.

Weis “was always looking for ways to be sure that the youth of our area had cultural opportunities,” Sojka said. “She expressed that desire through supporting the PBP [Paper Bag Players]…”

The PBP is a non-profit company that creates and performs contemporary musical theatre for children. The PBP has performed for the children of our community every year for the past twenty years.

When Weis was in her 80s, it was difficult for her to travel to New York City to experience the wonderful jazz series offered there. Her daughters instead brought jazz to her in what would ultimately be called the Janet Weis Cabaret Jazz Series.

“Whenever she was able, Janet would attend the series,” Sojka said. “It was great fun to watch her tap her foot to the rhythms and mouth the words of the tunes she knew. Jazz really brought joy to her life and as a result, she brought jazz to our region.”

Weis was a trustee emeritus of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1996. Her husband Sigfried was a member from 1982 to 1988.

The Weis’ support for the University brought the Sigmund and Claire Weis Center for the Performing Arts, named in honor of Sigfried’s parents, into existence. The Weis Center has been hosting music, dance and theatre performances, as well as lectures, convocations and other Univeristy events for years.

Weis donated money after her husband’s death in order to make the Sigfried Weis Music Building possible. This is located right next door to the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.

Weis was also a matriarch of the family that built Weis Markets Inc. and wife to Weis Markets Chairman Sigfried Weis, who died in 1995.

Weis founded the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, which offers childcare from before birth to adulthood. Weis was very active in helping with the fundraising campaign.

Since Weis was very much interested in music, art, culture and education, she would not allow generic art to be put up in hallways at the Children’s Hospital. Instead, she got original pieces of art from artists around the region to decorate the building.

Janet and her husband also established Janet C. Weis and Sigfried Weis Research Center at Geisinger.

“She was also a co-organizer of the Love and Care Street Fair in Sunbury, which raised funds for programs related to youth,” Sojka said.

Her devotion for childcare didn’t stop there. “She also played a major role in the early years of the Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger,” Sojka said.

Weis was in her 60s when William Boswell, Executive Director of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, first came to the University.

William Boswell has headed the Weis Center for the Performing Arts for over two decades now. During this time, Boswell became relatively close to Weis as a friend.

“Her gentleness, sensitivity and commitment helped direct much needed resources to programs dealing with community and children’s health, cultural enrichment and care of those in greatest need,” Sojka said.

Weis was hospitalized in December and most likely died of natural causes.

She “was one of the most giving people I have ever met,” Boswell said.

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