Paul Weissman, 1931–2020

Paul Weissman (left) and Harriet Weissman ’58 in Chapin Auditorium during the celebrations of the Weissman Center for Leadership’s 20th anniversary in 2019.

By Christian Feuerstein

Paul M. Weissman who, with his wife, Harriet Weissman ’58, advocated for and supported leadership studies and programming at Mount Holyoke College, died on Wednesday, September 30, at the age of 89, after an illness. 

“The news of Paul’s passing is devastating for all of us who had the enormous privilege of working with him and knowing him,” said Amy E. Martin, director of the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership. “Paul and Harriet together showed a devotion to Mount Holyoke and an extraordinary vision that has changed the lives of so many Mount Holyoke students, in profound and lasting ways. He understood that cultivating leadership and providing transformative opportunities to our students, as well as faculty and staff, create a foundation from which to change the world. 

“He graced all who met him with an incredible genuine kindness and a true, deep interest in who they were as people. It was always a joy to be in his presence and to see his sincere engagement with, and interest, in all who he encountered. His generosity and commitment to our college community will continue to make it possible for us to cultivate leaders and to deepen our commitment to inclusive leadership for many generations to come. 

“Paul and Harriet’s partnership in all things was an inspiration to so many of us, a manifestation of how love, devotion and a commitment to vital work can change the world. I am holding Harriet and the entire Weissman family in my heart as we all mourn this enormous loss.”  

The Weissmans’ many contributions to Mount Holyoke mirrored their optimism about the future. They are perhaps best known for the center that bears their names: the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership. 

Established with a foundational gift from the Weissmans in 1999, the Center promotes the exploration and expansion of leadership in all its many shapes and forms. The Weissman Center for Leadership is home to the core programs of Community-based Learning, Leadership and Public Service, and SAW (Speaking, Arguing and Writing). The Weissman Center has offered innumerable courses, internships, public events, workshops and networking opportunities throughout its 21 years of existence. 

“I am deeply saddened by Paul's passing,” said President Sonya Stephens. “We have lost a dear friend to the College and an honorary alumnus, a beacon among philanthropists and a visionary leader. His lifelong partnership with his wife, Harriet Weissman ’58, was also expressed as a shared love for and commitment to Mount Holyoke College, and each new generation of student leaders — Paul understood how much the world needs them.

“I will miss his keen judgment, great wit, sparkling conversation and his loyalty and steadfast presence beside Harriet and in our community. My thoughts are with Harriet and their family at this time of sorrow and mourning. I know that his life’s work, his spirit and vision, will live on in the hearts and work of those who had the privilege to know him, and in the actions and leadership of the many graduates and students whose lives were and will be touched by Paul and Harriet’s generosity.”

Paul was a graduate of Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania. After a lifelong career in investment banking, he was named the managing director emeritus at Bear Stearns. He served on the Harvard Alumni Association for 10 years, his final year as president. He was a trustee for Connecticut College, Rye Country Day School and Hopkins Grammar School. He was on the board of directors for the New York Services for the Handicapped. 

Paul was active in philanthropy. In addition to his efforts on behalf of Mount Holyoke College, he endowed a head coach position for Harvard golf and, with Harriet, established the Weissman International Internship Program at Harvard University.

Paul was unfailingly supportive of Harriet’s involvement with Mount Holyoke College, including her service as a member of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum Advisory Board and as a trustee. Often introducing himself as “Mr. Harriet Weissman,” he was bestowed honorary alumnus status of Mount Holyoke College in 2018 in recognition of his extraordinary devotion to the College.

He and Harriet married in 1961. They had three children and five grandchildren. 

Read his full obituary. 

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