Weisers donate $10 million to create diplomacy center at the University of Michigan

New center is part of the Ford School of Public Policy

University of Michigan alum Ron Weiser is a former ambassador to Slovakia in President George W. Bush's administration. Credit: University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR – A $10 million gift to the University of Michigan will help bring diplomats and foreign policy experts to Ann Arbor and build the university into a leading voice international policy. 

UM alumni Ron and Eileen Weiser donated the money to start The Weiser Diplomacy Center, which will serve as a hub for engagement with the foreign policy community. It will exist within the Ford School for Public Policy. 

The gift will support professors of practice in international diplomacy as well as shorter-term opportunities for diplomats in residence from around the world. It will also help students apply knowledge in practical settings through workshops, simulations, conferences and internship opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. 

"This new initiative will help train a new generation of informed, principled and entrepreneurial students committed to international affairs," said John Ciorciari, director of the International Policy Center at the Ford School. "It will also help connect the academy to the world of foreign policy practice to generate new ideas for addressing the many global challenges we face. No comparable concentration of diplomatic expertise exists at any university in the Midwest."

In a prepared statement from the university, the Weisers said they want to prepare students in a quickly shifting foreign policy world with new ideas and engagement with renowned scholars and policy experts.

"Under the leadership of Dean Michael Barr, the Ford School is well positioned to become the best public policy school in the country," said Ron Weiser, former ambassador, founder of McKinley Inc. and a member of the UM Board of Regents. "I am pleased to provide resources to help in this important field. Diplomacy is not just relationships between countries, it's about relationships between people ... it can change the direction of a country, affecting tens of millions of people."

The Weiser's philanthropy and service extends beyond Michigan. They have long been committed to diplomacy, an interest that deepened in 2001-04 when Ron Weiser was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia, a country that faced considerable challenges.

After three years furthering the Slovak economic and political relationship with the United States, Ron Weiser received the highest award given to non-Slovaks in the country: the White Double Cross.

"Ron and Eileen Weiser's generosity and vision will dramatically expand the Ford School's ability to teach our students about the vital role diplomacy plays in international affairs," said Michael Barr, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy. "The Weiser gift will build on our strong faculty and programming in international politics, international development and international economics."

University of Michigan alum Ron Weiser is a former ambassador to Slovakia in President George W. Bush's administration. Credit: University of Michigan

Ron and Eileen Weiser are longstanding UM alumni, volunteers and donors, committing more than $89 million to the university to date. In addition to Ron Weiser's service on the UM Board of Regents, they both serve as vice chairs of the Victors for Michigan campaign and support a wide range of programs across all three campuses of the university, including the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, Michigan Medicine's Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center and the Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Cancer Center. The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Michigan Medicine; School of Music, Theatre & Dance; UM-Dearborn, and dozens of other units have been beneficiaries of the Weisers' generosity.

Ron Weiser, a graduate of the U-M Ross School of Business, is the founder of McKinley Inc., a national real estate investment company based in Ann Arbor. Eileen Weiser, an alumnus of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, is a past executive director of the McKinley Foundation and served eight years on the National Assessment Governing Board. She has served on the University Musical Society Board of Directors and is a member of the UMS Senate. She is in her second, eight-year term on Michigan's State Board of Education, and currently chairs the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. She has also served on numerous civic boards.

The Weisers, their children—Marc and his wife, Mary; Elizabeth and her husband, Trey Caswell; their youngest son, Danny—and their five grandchildren, all live in Ann Arbor.