Deceased January 12, 2011
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Were there distinct humanities major in our Amherst days, Don Weiss might just have enrolled early. It was more than his prep at Boston Public Latin School or the patient prodding at Amherst of John Moore, a much-loved Greek and classical studies teacher. Don’s interdisciplinary focus and understanding of language and literature—and the relationship between the two—truly exemplified the humanities.
Don was born in Boston. After Amherst, he enrolled at Indiana University, where he earned an M.A. in comparative literature. He then taught at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, DePaul in Chicago and the University of Minnesota Duluth. In 1966, he accepted a position at Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University), where he was a professor and chairman of a humanities department that included French, Spanish, German, English, journalism, philosophy, speech and drama scholars. His teaching career spanned five decades.
Don made a difference in the lives he touched through his teaching. He is also remembered for directing summertime commedia dell’arte projects that allowed young people to perform Shakespeare, many going on to theater careers. He and Elizabeth, his wife of 51 years and a gifted musician, also collaborated on original productions, Don writing the script, Elizabeth the music and lyrics. His many interests included music, gardening, cooking, poetry, photography and travel that usually included a stop at the Shakespeare Globe Theater.
Don passed away peacefully on Jan. 12, 2011, in Portland, Ore. On Jan. 30, nearly 100 friends and relatives gathered to celebrate his life.
He is sorely missed. Noted Monsignor Bob Stern ’53 in a note to Elizabeth: “Even though we could not see each other often, I always felt connected with Don—a scholarly, gifted man with vision, faith and love.”
Philip W. Ransom Jr. ’53