“Now at 91, I have broken my own—and University—record,” wrote Michael Weinberg, Jr., LAB’41, AB’47, in a letter enclosed with his 75th consecutive donation to the University of Chicago in 2016. Weinberg is proud to be the University’s longest-running donor. Every year, he splits his gift to the University the same way.
“I don’t change it anymore,” he says. His gift is split among four funds—the general University fund and the schools he attended: the Laboratory Schools, the College, and Chicago Booth.
“To give back—it’s sort of an obligation,” Weinberg explains. “To me, it’s a privilege.” Weinberg recently signed a bequest to benefit the University, making him a member of the University’s Phoenix Society. He’s also a longtime member of the Maroon Loyalty and Chicago Societies.
A self-proclaimed loyalist, Weinberg started attending University of Chicago schools at the age of four. He grew up in Hyde Park and remembers lining the walls of his bedroom with newspaper articles about the University, introducing President Robert Maynard Hutchins while serving as president of the University’s student union, and making his first donation when he was 16 and a sophomore at U-High.
“It’s part of my family,” Weinberg says of the University. His mother attended Lab and the College, and his siblings attended University schools as well. His eldest son attended Lab before Weinberg and his own family moved from Hyde Park. He chuckles as he remembers how his son had to adjust to his new school and new teacher in Highland Park.
“As class was going on he would get out of his seat, go to the board, start writing things. His teacher was very upset. She complained to my wife—and to a psychiatrist.
“He was just used to being in a classroom where people give their opinions and listen,” Weinberg explains.
Weinberg remembers his own days at Lab as some of his fondest. “I felt deeply involved,” he says. But he doesn’t have a favorite memory.
“It’s not just looking at the past,” he says. “It’s a continuing feeling.”
Weinberg’s time in the College was interrupted by World War II. His fencing classes at Stagg Field were called off one day because University scientists needed the space to do some “metalwork”—work that would lead to the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Soon afterward he was called to serve. Amid his tours of duty in France, Germany, and Austria, he attended the University of Liverpool and Stanford University. But when it came to making his own decision about graduate school, he never considered anywhere but the University of Chicago.
“The thought never entered my mind any more than flapping my wings and flying,” he says.
He met his wife, Joan, when he returned from service.
Joan knew she would marry Michael after their first date, and she’s long since accepted the University’s place in her husband’s heart. Now married 65 years, their home is flush with books about University history and with art they’ve collected through the Renaissance Society.
“We’ve been married a long time,” Joan says. “But his first love is the University of Chicago.”
“After family and country,” Weinberg adds.