Mary Kaye Waldron

Award Winner

Fr. James Weiss wins Waldron award

By: Grant Hatchimonji

Heights Issue date: April, 2007

"A former award winner told me that these tributes make you feel like you're at your own funeral. But I'm still here to take it all in, so you can't say everything you're really thinking," said Father James Michael Egan Weiss at the 12th annual Mary Kaye Waldron Awards as he was recognized for his contributions to Boston College.

Monday's awards banquet was an opportunity for Weiss' former students and friends to honor him and describe his admirable qualities and accomplishments. The night also shed light on the late Mary Kaye Waldron, BC '95, and the history of the award.

Weiss, an associate professor in the theology department and an Episcopal priest, has been a professor since 1979 and teaches the PULSE course at BC. At the banquet, he was recognized for his founding of the Capstone program, which enrolls more than 400 seniors each year. Capstone classes encourage students to examine their lifelong commitment in work, relationships, citizenship, and spirituality. Beyond his work at BC, he also serves two parishes in Boston's Back Bay and in Dorchester, Mass.

As the co-directors of faculty for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC), Vanessa Careiro, A&S '08, and Theresa Hamilton, A&S '09, introduced James and Bonnie Waldron. The Waldrons shared kind words about Weiss; at one point, Bonnie Waldron said that after meeting and interacting with Weiss, he "stamped a happy face on [her] heart."

Peter Olivieri, a professor in the Carroll School of Management and a previous award-winner, then presented a film he had created to recognize Mary Kaye Waldron's accomplishments and commemorate her life.

Previous students and acquaintances of Weiss then took turns recognizing his accomplishments and hospitable nature.

"Father Weiss has taught me that academics aren't just something you do in a classroom," said Tad Ahlersmeyer, a former student of Weiss' and A&S '07. "You take what you learn and apply it to other aspects of your life. He has inspired me to lead a life of service."

Gina Scarpa, A&S '08, explained that she had undergone numerous medical procedures and subsequently began to see the world only in black and white as a way to prevent fear from entering her life. After meeting Weiss, though, she said that he taught her how to cope with "gray": "With his support, I learned that it's fine to see in black and white, but the fact is that the world is gray. Because of him, I will learn to live the journey that each challenge and question asks of me," said Scarpa.

Weiss' 2006-2007 PULSE class read him a humorous but sincere poem that they had written themselves. In the night's most straightforward recognition of Weiss' prominence, the poem ended, "You're the best damn teacher around."

Careiro and Hamilton had also compiled a small slideshow honoring Weiss' lifetime commitments to others, which they showcased to the audience.

The previous year's winner of the award typically says a few words about the recipient, as well. This year, however, 2006 winner Dean J. Joseph Burns could not make it to the banquet, so 2005 winner Brian Braman, a professor in the philosophy department, read some comments about Weiss that Burns had sent him beforehand. Burns' thoughts on Weiss, which mirrored many of the sentiments expressed by his former students, compared him to St. Ignatius himself. After relaying Burns' message, Braman shared his own thoughts on Weiss.

"When I first met Father Weiss, I thought, 'Now here's a man who is passionate, smart, and committed to his students,'" said Braman. "As I have gotten to know Father Weiss over the years, these initial thoughts have been confirmed in spades."

Braman then presented Weiss with his award.

"To receive the nominations in February, that was a joy. In March, to receive the award itself, that was very deeply humbling," said Weiss upon being given his award. "All of the previous winners have been models for me in my own life, and as the 12th winner, I feel like the 12th apostle, Judas. But I promise I will not betray this high trust.

"I look around the room and I see all these faces," he said. "This award is about those faces and more."

He then thanked his mother, Mary Virginia Weiss, to whom he dedicated the award. "Without her, I would not be me, and I would not be a teacher," he said, recalling the days when his mother, who taught elementary school students, took him to work with her.

He also thanked all of the alumni and students who nominated him for the award. "For 28 years, you have been God's gift to me," he said to them.

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