A seat on the MRC Board of Directors opened in 1991 and the late Bill Rusher was quick to recommend to me his friend Ambassador Leon J. Weil – “Lee” to his friends. On the appointed day, we met in New York City at the City Athletic Club where, he proudly announced, at age 64 he’d just finished a grueling round of squash, that being just another sport for the man who, he proudly told me, at age 54 had been named by Ronald Reagan to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports – along with some other guy called Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bragging? No, celebrating. He was enjoying life, and he was proud he could. This man with that crooked Clark-Gable mischievous smile and the Reaganesque winsome, innocent fascination with the world around him, this was a man you liked immediately. It took only a couple of minutes’ conversation to appreciate he was equally sharp as nails, and equally tough if need be. Lee agreed to join the MRC Board of Directors that day, and when the MRC spun off the Parents Television Council in 2001, he agreed to chair that newly-formed board as well. Lee led both groups until his passing on October 4 at age 84.
What a life. In the world of finance he was a giant: for sixty years a trusted financial advisor, a partner or senior executive at several Wall Street firms, and an Exchange Official on the American Stock Exchange. His other professional hat was in foreign service and international affairs, with accomplishments no less pronounced: Ambassador to Nepal from 1984-1987 and an official election observer in Asia, Eastern Europe and Central and South America.
He helped develop capital market systems in Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Armenia, too. In politics, he was a fundraiser for multiple conservative Republican efforts, including the campaigns of Senator James Buckley and President Reagan.
He served on many boards, from the Berkshire School to the International Foundation for Election Systems. He hiked throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and the U.S. He ran the NYC marathon. He climbed Kilimanjaro.
All were magnificent accomplishments, enough for a battalion, not an individual. But at the Media Research Center and the Parents Television Council, we remember even more. “Lee Weil brought a sober, relaxed and focused presence to our Board,” writes fellow board member and Ambassador Curt Winsor. “He was deeply loyal to the MRC and its founding principles (and principal).” From board member Michael Keiser: “What I liked best about Lee Weil was his inclusiveness.
Always a gentleman, he was by nature never a divider, even when the divide between viewpoints was wide. He always presented the patient expectation that ‘you’ll come to see it my way’ eventually. MRC Executive Vice President David Martin, who worked with Lee regularly on investment issues, recalls: “His astute knowledge of the financial marketplace, insight, thoughtfulness and oversight was a resource that helped the organization grow and flourish. I will truly miss our conversations.” Board member Karl Ottosen puts a bow on it all: “We are thankful that Lee was a man who not only touched our lives, he left a lasting imprint. We will miss him.”
Mabel Weil was Lee’s beautiful wife of 59 years and predeceased him by six months. God willing, they are now reunited. We offer our deepest condolences to their children, Cary, Jerry and Kate, and thank them for letting us borrow their father for so many meetings, for so many years. Lee Weil’s seat will be replaced, but he will be irreplaceable. We are left with that lasting imprint, a lifetime of leadership and public service and a lifetime lesson in civility, gentility and grace.
Requiescat in pace.
<<Originally posted on October 7. Reposted with minor edits on October 10, 2011.>>