Barbara Weitz honored with association's highest honor
The UNO Alumni Association bestowed its Citation for Alumni Achievement award upon UNO graduate Barbara Weitz during the university’s commencement ceremony Dec. 16 at Baxter Arena.
Inaugurated in 1949, the citation is the association’s highest and oldest honor. It encompasses career achievement, community service, involvement in business and professional associations, and fidelity to UNO. Association President Lee Denker presented the award to Weitz, who became the 172nd graduate so recognized.
“It is nearly impossible to express just how much Barbara Weitz means to UNO and our community,” Denker said. “She has a passion for inspiring positive change among youth, women, students and those in need. She is an inspiration for others, and I couldn’t be more proud to count Barbara as a distinguished UNO alumna.”
Weitz earned a master’s degree in social work from UNO in 1991. She also has a BA from Carleton College and an MPA from New York University.
UNO’s Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center is named in her honor, the Weitz Family Foundation having made the lead gift to its construction. Nationally unique, the CEC provides space for university and community groups who use the 60,000-square-foot facility for offices, workshops, trainings, conferences, meetings, events and more. Since opening in 2014, nearly 700 groups have utilized the CEC, hosting more than 11,000 events and attracting more than 166,000 individuals to the building while saving an estimated $5.6 million in space and IT services for participating organizations.
The CEC also is home to three of UNO's signature outreach programs: the Service Learning Academy, Office of Civic and Social Responsibility and William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies. Weitz, along with her husband, Wally Weitz, and their children were the catalyst behind the development and extraordinary growth of UNO’s service learning programs — now being integrated in K-12 schools throughout the Omaha community — and the university’s award-winning emergence as a national leader in community engagement.
Weitz has a diverse working background that includes service in higher education, the corporate world, state government, and a church. Her longest tenure, though, was as a full-time instructor in UNO’s School of Social Work from 1991 to 2007.
Weitz’s commitment to community and to enriching the lives of others extends well beyond the UNO campus. She is an avid supporter of local and national nonprofit organizations through both hands-on service and financial commitments. Her extensive volunteerism began in high school as a candy striper and continues today through service with the Women’s Fund of Greater Omaha, Building Bright Futures, the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, the Urban League of Nebraska, the Avenue Scholars Foundation, the National Board of the Samaritan Institute and many others.
She has received numerous honors that recognize contributions and achievements across various facets of her life. That ranges from being named Outstanding Social Work Student at UNO to, 10 years later, receiving the UNO Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award. She also has received the Greater Omaha Women’s Fund Women’s Spirit Award, the College of Public Affairs and Community Service Outstanding Alumni Award and, with her husband, the Life Saving Research Association Award.
Born in Lincoln, Weitz also spent time as a child living in Charleston, S.C., Chicago and Omaha. She graduated from Omaha Westside High School. She and her husband, Wally, were married in 1970. They have three children and six grandchildren.