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Our History

Twenty Years of Community

The history of the Weitz Family Foundation is one based in love. Barbara and Wally instilled the value of community in each of their children early on by sharing and experiencing the good work being done by local organizations and individuals. This desire to give and help others was adopted by the Weitz children, who all love to serve others by participating in initiatives that arouse their passions. Everyone in the family and at the Foundation enjoys continuing to learn, trying new things, and asking questions. There are so many events that have taken place across our more than 20 years in existence–here are a few highlights:


Barbara Veach and Wally Weitz, Political Science and Economics majors respectively, met and fell in love at Carleton College. When they married in 1970, Wally went to Wall Street, and Barbara moved into social work before returning to politics after retirement.

Katie, Roger, and Drew were all born in Omaha. The Weitzes found their family community at Presbyterian Church of the Master. Barbara worked in Christian Education and Wally was on the Presbytery Senate. They gave generously to their church and taught their children about tithing. All were involved: Wally played the French horn in the orchestra, Barbara and Katie rang handbells, and everyone sang in the choir.

Old photograph.

Sepia toned head shot of Wally (left) and Barbara (right) in collared shirts and sweaters. He is looking into the camera with a mildly interested gaze, while she looks down contentedly smiling with a classic flip hairdo and headband.


Wally opened his own firm and, shortly thereafter, Barbara attended the Grace Abbott School of Social Work. All three children found their way to Carleton before moving to Chicago. Roger climbed the ranks of the opera administration world and met his wife, Kate. Drew got a taste of mutual fund research and investing as he started his family with fellow Carleton grad, Meredith. Katie worked in education and eventually went back to school for various additional degrees, including a PhD in Human Development and Social Policy.

An old Weitz family portrait. Barbara smiles broadly into the camera while holding a blond curly-headed Drew approximately 2 years old. Wally is angled toward Barbara from behind with one arm also around Drew. Katie stands next to Wally with a smile and peter pan collar approximately 8 years old, while Roger stands in front, smiling with his bangs over his forehead and a red and white striped shirt, which mimics Wally’s brown and white stripes.


The Weitz Family Foundation was formally established with a Board of Directors comprised of immediate family members and spouses. Barbara and Wally encouraged everyone to bring ideas to the discussion. The family funded agencies where its members lived at the time–from Northfield, to Chicago, to DC–but Omaha was always the primary focus.

In the early days, most attention was given to organizations that were largely in under-resourced areas or overlooked by larger foundations. Housing in North Omaha became a key focus area, and we collaborated with organizations like New Community Development Corporation, Family Housing Advisory Services, and Holy Name Housing. We also supported community groups such as Social Settlement and Peace Nebraska.


The Foundation’s first large gift was a $25M pledge to Carleton College in 2005. At that time, it was the largest contribution to Carleton College in its history.

Building photo

The Weitz Center for Creativity at Carleton College at dusk with both interior and exterior lights on at dusk. The building is a contemporary design, utilizing strong boxy shapes and large windows.


Fellow Carleton alum and Executive Director of the Joslyn Art Museum helped the Weitz Family Foundation launch a fellowship program for recently graduated Carleton College students. The Weitz Fellows program started in 2011 with just one graduate working at Joslyn. Currently, eight Fellows work at nonprofit agencies across Omaha and Lincoln. Weitz Fellow organizations, past and present, include Open Sky, Nebraska Appleseed, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Urban League of Nebraska, Film Streams, Girls Inc, Latino Center of the Midlands, The Union for Contemporary Art, Opera Omaha, The Women’s Fund, and Service Learning Academy at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Over the years, several Weitz Fellows have returned to Omaha to work and live, which we consider a tremendous success!

A large group of people.

A group of 17 people standing close together posed for the photo in a residential neighborhood with large trees.


The Weitz Family Foundation decided to create a more formal grant application process. This new process provided more transparency to community-based organizations. Publishing the formalized grant information on the website gave grant seekers the Board did not know about personally the opportunity to access our application. The Board was able to review all requests together rather than over the course of the year as they were received, which allowed them to focus their efforts and be more timely with their review and response.


We saw the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center open on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus. Barbara’s remarks at the opening ceremony served as a reminder that we should respond to social problems the same as we do natural disasters: by coming together and creating solutions for all parts of our community.

Building photo.

The Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center at the University of Nebraska Omaha, lit from the inside, from a distance. A concrete path leads up to a door surrounded by greenery. The building is half traditional brick and window and the right half is more modern with additional glass and metal features.


The staff grew when an Executive Administrator was brought on part-time. By the end of 2021, the Weitz Family Foundation had 5 full-time team members.


We amended our grant agreements to require capital gifts be used to hire small and emerging businesses. We put this into practice as we oversaw the development of the Yates Illuminates project in 2020.

10 people wearing masks pose with their thumbs up in a group shot.


By 2020, the Weitz Family Foundation contributed $197,000,000 to causes and organizations we believe are changing the world through love and hard work.