Weiss Urban Livability Program

About the Weisses

From the biography about the Weisses:
Giving Is Good for the Soul: The Life and Legacy of Charles and Shirley Weiss

When Charles and Shirley met on that double blind date in April 1939, they likely didn't realize that they were about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. They devoted their lives to education and to making the world—especially our quality of life in cities—better. They also devoted their lives to each other. Through all their professional achievements and challenges, their travels and adventures, Charles' and Shirley's devotion to one another has been a mainstay of their lives together and an inspiration to all who have known them.

Charles and Shirley Weiss in Machu Picchu, 1958

Charles and Shirley Weiss explore the fabled lost Inca city of Manchu Picchu, August 1958. Charles was on a teaching and field assignment at the National Engineering University in Lima, Peru. That year, Shirley became the first female faculty member in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

From their mutual appreciation of education, cities, and the music and arts that cities foster grew their commitment to improving the quality of urban life. Charles' research on water quality and lakes, both at home and abroad, helped foster healthy urban growth around water supplies; a first-class limnologist, he helped set the standard for this area of high-quality research at UNC-Chapel Hill. Shirley's research made her a nationally recognized leader on issues affecting cities, including growth, revitalization, and quality of life. Her pioneering spirit also inspired and encouraged a generation of young urban planning students, and women across the University.

Both Weisses set a high bar for being exemplary University citizens, mentoring both students and junior faculty and giving back through their service, time, talents, and personal resources.

Since their first financial contributions in support of education and the arts in the mid-'70s, Charles and Shirley have helped more than 60 classical music groups or programs, and created endowments to support 12 different academic and artistic areas at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University.

Foremost on the Weisses' list of contributions is, of course, the creation of the Weiss Urban Livability Program in the UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School.

This interdisciplinary fellowship program has supported scores of graduate students since the program's inception. These students have benefited significantly from their involvement in the Weiss Program. The program has also created a new model for graduate fellowships, and other Graduate School programs have been modeled after this successful exemplar of education. The Weisses' impact on graduate education at UNC-Chapel Hill is immeasurable.

The Weiss Urban Livability Program truly is the grand legacy of Charles and Shirley Weiss' lives. By sharing what they have garnered throughout their lives with graduate students who will become leaders for tomorrow, the contributions of Charles and Shirley Weiss continue to live on into the future.

Steven W. Matson
Dean, The Graduate School
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill