History of the Weis Center
The 2012-13 Season marks the 25th Anniversary of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University. This milestone offers the opportunity to reflect on where the Weis Center has been and its vision for the future.
Weis Center Stats
- Square Feet: 55,956
- Architect: Daniel F. Tully Associates, Melrose, Massachusetts
- General Contractors: Ritter Brothers, Harrisburg, PA (Phase I); Carlisle Construction, Carlisle, PA (Phase II)
- Sound System: Peirce-Phelps, Inc., Philadelphia, PA
- Seats: 1,288
- Dedicated: March 19, 1988
- Gala Opening: April 4-May 7, 1988
- Namesakes: Claire Gross Weis (1884-1981) and Sigmund Weis (1883-1955)
An Idea is Born
The headline in the March 1988 issue of Bucknell World said, “Everything in the arts center was designed for the listener.”
Twenty five years later, that tradition of musical excellence continues.
The Performing Arts Center was funded primarily through a 1982 bequest from the estate of Claire Weis, wife of the founder of the Weis Market chain. At the time of the opening, her son, Sigfried, served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Bucknell and president of Weis Markets. The bequest reflects Mrs. Weis’ lifelong interest in the cultural life of the region and her perception of the advantage of such a facility to Bucknell’s thriving performing arts curriculum as well as to the developing region.
The groundbreaking for the Weis Center took place on May 11, 1985 with construction completing in late 1987 and early 1988.
The $9.7 million building celebrated its Ceremonial Dedication on March 19, 1988. A month-long Gala Grand Opening followed from April 4-May 7, 1988 with dances, theatre and performing artists such as the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
The Weis Center is an exceptionally high-quality performing arts venue built with proportions similar to Boston Symphony Hall and Vienna’s Musikvereinsaal. Its “shoe box” shape is considered one of the best for superior acoustics. Sound-reflecting surfaces were built into the hall’s ceiling and side panels. The Center houses an extensive sound and lighting system, as well as a platform lift or orchestra pit elevator. The building includes an expansive glass-encased lobby with sweeping helix staircase ascending to the upper floor, plus rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and loading and storage areas.
Other features include a specially constructed dance floor built to meet the specifications of the American Dance Guild.
About the Namesakes
(Courtesy Bucknell World, March 1988)
Claire Gross Weis (1884-1981) was born in Bloomsburg, PA. Her marriage to Sigmund Weis in 1911 brought her to Selinsgrove, PA, where the newly married couple built a home near Susquehanna University, where both children, Claire Elizabeth (Betty) and Sigfried, were born. In 1917, the family moved to Sunbury. She was an excellent bridge player, an avid golfer and a volunteer for the Red Cross and many other causes. She and her husband were among the small group who provided funds to open the J.R. Kauffman Public Library in Sunbury. The concept of a performing arts center at Bucknell excited her imagination.
Sigmund Weis (1883-1955), the son of a merchant, was born and raised in Selinsgrove. He attended preparatory school at Susquehanna and graduated from its college in the class of 1903. He also graduated from the Eastman School of Business in Poughkeepsie, NY. When his father, Sigfried, died, the young merchant sold the general store in Selinsgrove and opened his first grocery story in Sunbury in 1912. At the store co-founded by Sigmund and his brother Harry, a decision was made to sell all groceries for cash only. This was a tremendous innovation at the time, and while not an immediate success, it set the tone for the future of Weis Markets. He was known as an extraordinarily charitable man, and this philosophy became a way of life for his family. He believed you should return a portion of your profits to the communities who were responsible for your success.
The mission statement of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University is to feature the highest caliber of artists who extend and/or enhance the learning experience, highlighting artists who are testing the boundaries of their art forms, who are true innovators in their fields, and whose work emanates from the widest spectrum of world cultures.
Through our performances and programs, the Weis Center aspires to transform the nature of the world we live in – locally and globally. We inspire artists to do their best work and share it with the university and greater central Pennsylvania audiences; we inspire audiences to recognize the spiritual power or art and its ability to change individual lives; and we inspire communities to become active participants rather than passive spectators through a deeper integration of arts activities shared between the campus and the greater community.