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By Tom Evelyn
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Janet Weis, a champion of the arts at Bucknell University who played a major role in the construction of the campus' performing arts and music buildings and the establishment of a renowned literary fellowship, died Monday evening. She was 91.
"Anyone associated with Bucknell knows the tremendous difference that Janet Weis has made in the life of this University," Bucknell President John Bravman said. "All of us at Bucknell mourn the passing of an icon in the community and a benefactor and leader whose generosity and service made a lasting difference in the cultural and educational experiences so many enjoy. On behalf of all Bucknellians, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Weis family and our enduring appreciation to all she has meant to this University."
Mrs. Weis and her late husband, Sigfried, members of the family that built Weis Markets, gave millions of dollars for the advancement of education, medicine and the arts. Janet Weis had been a trustee emeritus of the University's Board of Trustees since 1996, and Sigfried served as a member for 20 years as well as chair from 1982 to 1988.
The Weises' support for Bucknell made possible the Sigmund and Claire Weis Center for the Performing Arts, a 1,200-seat hall that hosts music, dance and theater events, as well as student performances and classes, lectures, convocations and other University functions.
After Sigfried Weis' death, a gift from Janet Weis made possible the Sigfried Weis Music Building, which houses classrooms, practice rooms and a recital hall. The Weises also endowed a programming fund for the performing arts center, and she continued this commitment by sponsoring many of the center's performances.
The annual Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters honors and recognizes individuals who represent the highest level of achievement in the craft of writing. Recipients have included Toni Morrison, David McCullough, Joyce Carol Oates and Edward Albee, who will accept the honor and speak at Bucknell on March 22. The fellowship was established in 2002 through a grant from the Degenstein Foundation in honor of Mrs. Weis, who also was an author in addition to being a philanthropist and civic leader.
The Janet Weis Cabaret Jazz Series, which offers jazz concerts six times a year at Bucknell, was established by her family in her honor.
Mrs. Weis received the Stephen W. Taylor Medal, the University's most significant honor, in 2003, and the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, in 2008.