January 22, 2002
Ben Weiner (B 30) may not have had the size to play football for Tulane, but off the field he was a giant in his support for Green Wave athletics. Weiner, founder of Weiner-Cort Furniture Rental in New Orleans, was a lifelong supporter of Green Wave sports.
A longtime president of the Green Wave Club, now known as the Tulane Athletics Fund, in 1977 he established the Ben Weiner Foundation as an endowed fund to support intercollegiate athletics scholarships at Tulane. So it's fitting that Weiner's name is now synonymous with athletics at Tulane.
On Nov. 1, the atrium of the James W. Wilson Jr. Center for Intercollegiate Athletics was formally dedicated as Ben Weiner Hall in honor of Weiner's longstanding commitment to Green Wave athletics. In addition, through a gift of the Ben Weiner Foundation, the position of director of athletics was endowed and current Tulane athletics director Rick Dickson was invested as the first holder of the Ben Weiner Athletics Directors Chair.
"Over the 100-plus-year history of Tulane athletics, there have been ADs, coaches and different people that have made significant contributions, both work related and financial," says Dickson, "but you have to put Ben Weiner right at the top." The refurbishing of the atrium and endowment of the AD's position were made possible through a $3.6 million gift of the Ben Weiner Foundation to the Tulane Athletics Fund.
The gift represented all assets of the foundation and its transfer to Tulane resulted in the effective dissolution of the foundation. Unlike a traditional academic chair, the Ben Weiner Athletics Directors Chair is not a tenured position. Instead, it's a symbolic chair that highlights Weiner's commitment to unrestricted giving.
"All the proceeds of the endowment are for overall operations--scholarship costs, room and board, etc," Dickson says. "The reason we threw the athletics directors chair out there as a giving opportunity was because so much of Ben's philanthropic effort was dedicated toward unrestricted, unconditional giving. He really founded the Green Wave Club and developed our first scholarship fund drive. The athletics director is primarily responsible for funding entire programs and not specific sports, so we felt that it fit well with what Ben Weiner had done in his philanthropic efforts. We thought it made sense to do this in honor of Ben because it is a position committed to his same philosophy."
Tulane is the only school in Division 1 that Dickson is aware of with an endowed athletics directors chair, but the principal behind the symbolic title--building an athletics endowment to cover operational costs--is one many schools have pursued and one essential for the future of athletics at Tulane.
"Historically, Tulane athletics has been a program that has been under resourced and under funded and that's probably the key reason why [building the endowment] had been identified as our No. 1 campaign priority," Dickson says. "For decade upon decade, Tulane has been in a cycle of trying to properly fund in an appropriate, competitive manner its programs and because of shorter term solutions, they could never get ahead. The significance of this gift and the actions of the Ben Weiner Foundation were to state in grand fashion that this is the right solution to solving those issues in a long-term way and not the year to year approach that has traditionally hampered the fortune of Tulane athletics."
For proof that it's the right solution, Dickson says, "one need only look to another private university located in Palo Alto, Calif. Stanford is the premier example in the country," he says. "11 or 12 years ago, Stanford did a $10 million campaign to create an endowment fund for their athletics program. That fund is now valued at more than $400 million and nearly completely subsidizes Stanford athletics. This is the first step in creating that kind of model."
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