Gift to the Humanities

Steinberg Hall. Photo by Joe Angeles.

Weil's gift underscores commitment to Washington University

Posted by Barbara Rea May 5, 2011

Mark S. Weil, PhD, the E. Desmond Lee Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences and one of Washington University's most prominent and long-serving professors, is providing the institution with a gift of $2,525,000 to support Arts & Sciences and programs in the humanities. From this gift, an endowed fund of $250,000 will be established to support the University Libraries.

In his announcement, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton noted that Weil is making the gift in celebration of his 50th reunion next year. It is Weil's hope that his symbolic gesture will encourage fellow classmates and others to support the university.

"Mark Weil is one of the great citizens of Washington University, and a significant force behind the steady growth and enhancement of art on this campus and throughout the St. Louis region," Wrighton says.

"Keeping the humanities strong at Washington University is chief among our goals, and this gift helps guarantee a robust future for a variety of initiatives. We are very fortunate and grateful that Mark has chosen to benefit our institution in this way," Wrighton says.

Echoing Wrighton's sentiments, Gary S. Wihl, PhD, the Hortense & Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, says, "This gift from Mark Weil is an enduring investment in Arts & Sciences and in the humanities and will provide much-needed resources to build on our rich tradition of academic excellence in humanistic disciplines."

Weil spent more than four decades at WUSTL, both as a student and faculty member. In addition, he has been a key figure in transforming St. Louis into a thriving and nationally recognized art community.

After graduating from Columbia University in 1968 with a doctoral degree in art history, Weil, a St. Louis native and a 1961 alumnus of Washington University, began teaching in Washington University's art history and archaeology department. Over the next 40 years, he continued his teaching and scholarship in his areas of expertise: Italian Baroque sculpture, 16th- and 17th-century garden and stage design, the Marvelous, and art connoisseurship.

He is the author of The History and Decoration of the Ponte S. Angelo as well as many articles and exhibition catalogs. His service includes two stints as chair of the art history and archaeology department from 1982-88 and from 1995-99.

In 1998, Weil also assumed directorship of the Gallery of Art, now the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. During his tenure, he organized several major exhibitions for the Kemper and for other museums. He retired in 2005.

In the mid-1990s, Weil helped create the master plan that eventually would link the gallery with the University's School of Art as well as the School of Architecture to form the larger Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

"The transition from a loosely grouped set of academic endeavors to a comprehensive center for visual design was a massive, multiyear undertaking, and Mark Weil played a significant role in turning the plan into a reality," says Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. "His knowledge and experience informed the plan and greatly facilitated the transformation."

As a member of the Steinberg family, Weil carries its great legacy of philanthropy forward. Steinberg Hall, which houses classrooms and studios for art students and graduate architecture students, was a gift from his late grandmother, Etta Steinberg, in memory of his late grandfather, Mark C. Steinberg.

After being extensively renovated, Steinberg Hall recently was rededicated in honor of her generous contributions to Washington University. Her gifts to the University also included the Steinberg Professorship in Art History and the Mark C. Steinberg Memorial Hospital, now part of the Barnes-Jewish complex. In 1967, she was recognized with an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

His parents, the late Florence and Richard Weil, contributed many great works of art to the University's collection. To honor his mother, he and his siblings and spouses also supported the Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Plaza. The family also has been well represented on WUSTL's Board of Trustees: Richard was an emeritus trustee and John, Mark's brother, currently serves.

In both Weil's personal and professional life, he has been dedicated to teaching the importance of humanistic study. "I am a humanist and spent my career teaching the history of art and championing interdisciplinary humanistic enterprises," Weil says. "I am delighted that Washington University shares my commitment to strengthening the humanities for future generations."

"We can all be grateful for this family," says Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, MD, who has known the family for decades. "The Steinberg-Weil family has made St. Louis a more vital and more interesting place; Mark is carrying on a wonderful family tradition of giving in a way that will make better both Washington University and our community."

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