There are many excellent research and teaching institutions, but only a handful truly bring together the fields of art, architecture and design. Fewer still include a university art museum. The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis has successfully united all three—art, architecture and museum. This distinctive model is attracting exceptionally talented students who will help reimagine the built environment and shape 21st century visual culture.
An Optimal Environment
These students are highly accomplished and idealistic, say Anabeth and John D. Weil, passionate proponents of and participants in the cultural life of St. Louis and the university. “They really do come to Washington University to improve the world,” Mr. Weil says. “We can do nothing better than encourage them to do just that.”
The Sam Fox School prepares future artists, architects and designers for critical leadership roles in an increasingly complex world that will require innovative and integrated solutions for social, cultural and environmental concerns.
To do this well, the Weils believe students and faculty must be given the optimal environment. And to assist them, the Weils are making a lead gift of $12.5 million toward construction of a new facility. They, and the school, envision it to be an iconic symbol of the university’s commitment to creativity and technology in the 21st century. It will signal the Sam Fox School’s leadership at the forefront of interdisciplinary design and education.
“There is a great excitement about helping with an important building project,” Mr. Weil says. “A project that will make the world a little better than when we found it. I think the university’s alumni and friends will enjoy becoming involved.”
The new building will accommodate new and expanded degree programs for graduate art and architecture students, and encourage connections both within the school and across the university.
Says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, “The Weils’ ongoing generosity has brought benefit to countless students and faculty, strengthening not only Washington University, but also the arts community in St. Louis. Their support of this important new facility will inspire new and creative programs that will benefit generations to come.”
Philanthropists with a Vision
The Weils have more than a little knowledge of actualizing such large-scale projects. Mrs. Weil, as former chief executive of Forest Park—home to the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri History Museum—helped develop and implement the $97 million Forest Park Master Plan. Mr. Weil, a university trustee, is immediate past chair of the Saint Louis Art Museum Board of Commissioners, where he chaired the capital campaign for expansion.
“The idea of creating a place accessible to everyone—that was a great passion of my grandmother’s and motivated her gift of Steinberg Hall to the university in 1960,” Mr. Weil says of Etta Eiseman Steinberg, who made the gift in memory of her husband, Mark C. Steinberg.
The Weils’ investment in Washington University includes the significant time and guidance they commit as volunteer leaders. The couple co-chairs the Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University committee for the Sam Fox School. Mr. Weil also chairs the school’s National Council, and Mrs. Weil chairs the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum Collections Committee.
“We’ve learned enormously through our affiliation with the school,” Mrs. Weil says. “We’re absurdly lucky to do what we love, and doing it together makes it special. It enriches our lives to no end.”