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October 27, 2016

Obituary: Alexander Weilenmann

obit.weilenman PSAlexander Weilenmann, associate professor emeritus of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, died Oct. 21, 2016, following a brief illness. He was 90.

Weilenmann, whose specialty was communications theory, joined the GSPIA faculty as an assistant professor in 1963, brought aboard by the school’s founding dean, Donald Stone, and was raised to associate professor in 1966.

After 30 years on the Pitt faculty, Weilenmann was named associate professor emeritus of public and international affairs in 1993.

A native of Switzerland, Weilenmann earned his PhD in history magna cum laude at the University of Zurich in 1953. His study included special emphasis on Anglo-American and colonial history, political philosophy and economic history.

He was a press assistant, then a press analyst, for the U.S. Information Service in Bern before becoming a faculty member in political science at the University of Oregon 1961-63.

During his years at Pitt, Weilenmann served GSPIA in numerous administrative capacities, including as coordinator of doctoral studies/doctoral program (1964-66 and 1972-75); chair of the committee on doctoral study (1971-76 and 1984-85); and, beginning in 1978, coordinator of the doctoral field of specialization in public policy research and analysis.

He also was a senior associate in the Center for Latin American Studies at the University Center for International Studies.

“He was the last of the old guard,” the eldest of GSPIA’s living emeritus faculty, said professor emeritus Donald Goldstein, who remembered Weilenmann’s devotion to GSPIA students. “He saved the PhD program,” said Goldstein, who joined the faculty in 1973. “He brought it all together.”

Goldstein remembered Weilenmann as steady, dependable, meticulous, a scholar and a team player, who spent time critiquing dissertations and supporting the graduate students. “He was someone who cared,” Goldstein said. “A kind and gentle guy.”

Weilenmann was a generous donor to GSPIA and supported construction of the Swiss nationality room, which was dedicated in 2012.

In 2005, he established the Alex Weilenmann Dissertation Research Fund at GSPIA, which provides support for the school’s PhD candidates’ dissertation research. He also bequeathed a portion of his estate to the school.

Swiss room committee vice chair Fred Carlson said, “Alex was a dedicated donor at our highest level” — the Monte Rosa level, named for Switzerland’s highest peak. While he didn’t often attend the committee’s events, “he never hesitated to put in a small note of appreciation that this was moving along,” when he responded to the committee’s annual fundraising requests to advance the room’s construction, Carlson said.

Maxine Bruhns, Nationality Rooms director, remembered Weilenmann, who lived nearby in Oakland, as a quiet and generous friend.

She said her late husband, Fred C.  Bruhns, a GSPIA professor since 1965, developed a close friendship with Weilenmann because they were both born in Europe.

“Alex was quite shy and they often had lunch together,” she said, recounting, “Once, my husband told me he had lunch with Alex. I asked, ‘What did he say?’ Fred answered, ‘Nothing.’”

Bruhns said she and Weilenmann just spoke about a month ago, when she called on him to assist her with remarks in German to be delivered at the Alliance of Germanic Societies of Pittsburgh recognition luncheon. He graciously assisted in editing her German.

“I shall miss his quiet presence,” she said.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Carmen San Martin (Weilenmann), who died in 1987.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 5

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