In Remembrance of Stephen S. Weiner, Campaign Co-Founder
Dear friends –
It is with a truly heavy heart that I share the news that The Campaign for College Opportunity’s co-founder, Steve Weiner, passed away Sunday.
It was nine years ago that I met Steve. He shared that when we first met, he wasn’t impressed. I looked too young and I couldn’t possibly be a good candidate to run the organization he was passionately trying to staff so that he could reverse the state’s disinvestment in college access and press for reforms to improve student success. During the interview I managed to change his mind and we both laughed afterwards that first impressions aren’t always accurate.
Some might not think a retired white Jewish baby boomer who grew up in Los Angeles and worked in some of the most prestigious posts in academia would have much in common with a young Latina who was the first in her family to go to college. But we did. We were both passionate and committed. Steve about making sure the next generation would have the same chance to advance economically and civically through higher education like he did, and me feeling the same pressure to make sure others who looked like me – who didn’t always give a good first impression – might have a shot at college and success.
For the past nine years I’ve had the blessing of working with Steve as he steered this Campaign ship. He was unrelenting in his concern for the future of California and for the urgency in ensuring our elected officials and college leaders did more to improve higher education in our state. Steve may have formally retired from the workforce, but he never retired from giving back to the State he loved. In addition to founding the Campaign for College Opportunity, he worked on various ventures to expand leadership opportunities for youth and to convene leading thinkers on a wide range of topics as part of his “Daring Ideas” conversations.
Left to Right: David Wolf, William Hauck, Antonia Hernandez, David Viar, Steve Weiner
As my mentor and boss, Steve provided praise – but only enough to make it clear that more was possible. Steve asked tough questions – to make sure I was thinking about answers. Steve identified new issues and concerns – because he knew more needed to be done. Above all, Steve was a courageous leader that never shied away from taking difficult positions- recognizing that audacious goals were often rewarded. Steve mentored and loved me – and I loved him right back. Each day I knew Steve – he made me better, and the Campaign’s work benefited as a result.
When those you love leave your side, you inevitably question how to go on without them. This is exactly what I’m thinking. And then I realize, that there will never be a world without Steve Weiner. He is a part of me. He will always be a part of the Campaign for College Opportunity and every small and large accomplishment that’s been had and will be yet to come.
David Wolf, Steve’s dear friend and co-founder of the Campaign for College Opportunity reminds us, “There is a Jewish line of thought that defines immortality as the thoughts about a person that persist after the individual is no longer physically with us. We now think about our friend and in so doing, he lives on.”
Board member Bill McGinnis shared, “The road we travel is lit by the flames of the outstanding contributions to our society by people like Steve. We hope we can see the path of their footsteps clearly enough to continue on and to assure their contributions are not lost.”
I promise each of you that our work to ensure California significantly increases college opportunity and student success will continue. Steve’s vision for a better California will be with us every single day. In this work, we will keep his memory alive and ensure that the flames he lit will always burn.
Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director