James M. Weisbard ’87 died September 15, 2003.
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9/27/1966 – 9/15/2003
On September 15, 2003, my beloved brother James Matthew Weisbard died from brain cancer at the age of thirty-six. Jim was diagnosed with a brain tumor four years ago, but he never stopped fighting his illness and never lost hope for a healthier, happier future.
Jim cherished the four years he spent at Amherst, where he excelled as both a scholar and an athlete. An American studies major, Jim completed a thesis titled Universal Military Training, Selective Service, and American Society 1944-64 and graduated magna cum laude. Jim was an editor of The Amherst Student and he also won an award his senior year for his contributions to the school’s intramural sports programs.
Jim’s life was filled with many notable accomplishments, but he was proudest of being a loving father to Christopher Matthew, age six, and Kelly Elizabeth, age five. Jim adored his children, and they were his greatest motivation to live. Last year, Jim attended his fifteen-year Amherst Reunion with Christopher and Kelly in tow. The trip was especially meaningful, as it was the only vacation Jim was able to take with his children. Jim was thrilled to see his alma mater through his children’s eyes, and the children were extremely excited to be at Amherst. They had a great time on campus—hanging out in Porter with Jim’s classmates and their kids, visiting Memorial Hill, playing ping pong in the campus center game room, and staying in a suite in Pratt. They also enjoyed going into town and buying special Amherst souvenirs at Hastings and having lunch at Judy’s, popovers and all.
Each of Jim’s children had a special place in his heart. Christopher was Jim’s “little buddy,” and together they shared in the rituals of a young boy’s life. Jim taught Christopher how to play basketball, baseball, and soccer, and how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. They enjoyed hikes together, made line-ups with Christopher’s toy cars, did puzzles, and played castle and knights. The two were also very competitive. Everyone’s ears perked up when Jim would say “Christopher, I challenge you to…” to hear if the contest about unfold would be “a wrestling match,” or “a game of checkers,” or “a card game.”
Jim called Kelly his “little princess,” and he derived equal pleasure from sharing in the activities and pastimes of a little girl’s world. Jim and Kelly played dolls together, had tea parties, played make-believe games about fairies and princesses, and colored pictures together. Jim bought special dresses for Kelly and attended every ballet class, proudly handing her flowers at her recital. Always a good sport, when Jim played the Pretty Princess jewelry game that he gave Kelly for her birthday, he willingly donned the brightly-colored plastic earrings, necklace, and bracelet that the game rules required.
Whether driving around the neighborhood scoping out new playgrounds for Christopher and Kelly, visiting the kids’ schools to read an animated rendition of a storybook to the class, or snuggling with the children on the sofa at home, Jim was the most devoted of fathers and loved his little ones more than anything else in the world. His love and his memory will surely have a special place in their hearts forever.
Jim’s accomplishments in fatherhood cap off a lifetime of achievements and noteworthy attributes.
Jim was born in New York City and raised in Eastchester, NY. An Eagle Scout, Jim graduated near the top of his class at Eastchester High School. After graduating from Amherst, Jim attended Duke law school. He passed the bar in Connecticut and practiced law in Stamford for several years.
In the mid ’90s, Jim gave up law to become a special agent in the FBI. From the time he was a child Jim was extremely patriotic, and he truly loved his country. He attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, where he completed rigorous physical and academic training. When graduation came, Jim was nominated by his peers to be the class speaker at their commencement ceremony.
Jim was assigned to the downtown New York City office and was extremely committed to his job. He assisted on the scene on September 11 and devoted long hours to investigations in the months that followed, despite the fact that he was fighting his illness at the same time.
In his spare time, Jim was an avid basketball player and fan who looked forward each year to putting on his Duke cap and watching his favorite Blue Devils compete in the NCAA championship tournament. He also enjoyed cycling, running, and reading works by political and historical writers.
In Jim’s relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, he was mutually esteemed as a fine individual who was caring, generous, dependable, honest, and direct. But perhaps Jim’s character is best reflected through his own words, which he spoke at his commencement ceremony at the FBI Academy:
“Let us never toss aside the moral compass which guides us in our daily endeavors and wander off the straight and narrow path of character excellence that requires constant and unswerving devotion to the sacred principles of fidelity, bravery, and integrity which we have sworn to uphold.”
Jim faced exceedingly tough challenges in life with a strength and perseverance to admire. He took the good with the bad, and the good was blessed with much love and happy times. In addition to his children, Jim is survived by his parents, Mort and Mari Weisbard, and his sisters, Kathy Weisbard ’89 and Sally Weisbard ’91.
—Sally A. Weisbard ’91