Jesuit Father Robert F. Weiss died June 9, 2016, at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis. He was 91 years old and about to mark the 70th anniversary of his entrance into the Society of Jesus. He was a former president of both Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Louis University High School.
Fr. Weiss was born in St. Louis on August 27, 1924, and attended St. Philip Neri Grade School and St. Louis University High School, graduating in 1942. He served in the 42nd (Rainbow) Division of the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and was First Sergeant of Company M222nd Infantry Regiment. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the combat infantryman’s badge and two battle stars for his service in the European Theater.
After the war, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1946. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude with a Greek major and a Latin minor from Saint Louis University, which also awarded him a Master of Arts degree in education and licentiates in both philosophy and theology.
He taught Latin at Rockhurst High School from 1953 to 1956, then studied sacred theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas. He was ordained a priest on June 16, 1959. He served as administrative assistant to the president of Saint Louis University in 1961, before returning to school at the University of Minnesota, where he earned a doctorate in education and educational psychology. He pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit on February 2, 1964.
He served at Rockhurst University as assistant dean (1964-66) and then dean (1966-73). He was also a professor of education during those years. In 1970, he was appointed a province consultor for the former Missouri Province. He returned to his hometown of St. Louis and his alma mater to serve as president of St. Louis University High School from 1973 to 1977. He then returned to Rockhurst University to serve as president for 11 years.
After a sabbatical (1988-89), Fr. Weiss moved to the Missouri Province office in St. Louis, where he was the province treasurer and then provincial assistant for higher education. Beginning in 2007, he worked with the Advancement Office of the province, work that he continued even after he moved to the Fusz Pavilion, the retirement community for Jesuits in St. Louis.
His experience and educational expertise resulted in membership on a number of boards of trustees, boards of directors and state and national commissions, including Saint Louis University, Creighton University, Loyola University New Orleans, the University of San Francisco, Fontbonne University, Rockhurst University, Marymount College, United Student Aid Funds, Inc., the Midwest Bioethics Center, the Sacred Heart Program, St. Louis University High School, St. Elizabeth Academy, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Our Little Haven and Loyola Academy of St. Louis.
He received the Chancellor’s Award from Rockhurst University; the W.F. Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service in Education from William Jewell College; the Founder’s Award from Fontbonne University; and the Backer Award from St. Louis University High School.
In January 2001, his Army regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation “for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy 24 January 1945 to 25 January 1945.”
With his genial personality and steady disposition, he was a successful and well-loved administrator who had a vast network of friends. He seemed to forget no one, and just about everyone who knew him felt a personal and unique connection with him.