The philanthropist: Carole Weinstein builds international connections

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Talk with Carole Weinstein about international education, and the well-seasoned traveler shies away from naming places she has visited. That’s too banal an approach, she says, to the importance of giving college students a global world view. An international lens requires more than simply touring a foreign country. It’s about building a sense of connection.  “It’s about understanding in depth and building bridges to other cultures, other legal systems, other business and leadership models than our own,” says Weinstein. “We are already living in a world that is irrevocably interconnected; what we need now is to enhance this and to make it a positive force.”

The vice chairman of Richmond-based Weinstein Properties is doing her part. Last summer, she pledged $9 million for a new $18 million building to house the University of Richmond’s international programs. The Carole Weinstein International Center is expected to boost UR’s profile as a top school for international studies.  Started 20 years ago on a shoestring,  the program has grown dramatically, earning UR a national ranking last year in Newsweek’s annual college guide as the “hottest school” in the country for international studies. 

Weinstein’s interest in elevating the quality of international education began two decades ago while she was teaching English at the university. Her students wanted to broaden their educational experience, but she wasn’t sure how to help them. “I began to think about international education, and I tried to establish a scholarship,” she says.  “I started with one of my students and gave her a grant to study abroad.”  The student studied in the Netherlands and France. “It was a great adventure for her,” recalls Weinstein. 

As Weinstein Properties continued to thrive — the private real estate company now owns and manages some 12,000 apartments among other real estate holdings — Weinstein began funding more scholarships.  In 2003, she donated $1 million to fund the Carole M. Weinstein Chair of International Education, now held by Dr. Uliana Gabara, the school’s founding dean of international education.

Initially a small operation with a tiny staff and limited resources, UR’s program now includes study-abroad opportunities, international exchange programs with more than 50 schools around the world and cour­ses with international content spread across the university’s five schools. “Over the years, the university’s and Carole’s steady support have resulted in this becoming one of the signatures of the university, nationally and internationally,” says Gabara. 

Today, 189 students represent about 70 countries on campus and constitute nearly 7 percent of the university’s student undergraduate population of 2,794. Weinstein and her husband, Marcus, chairman and CEO of Weinstein Properties, both graduated from the school.  Marcus Weinstein graduated in 1949. Carole Weinstein entered the Westhampton class of 1963 and graduated later, following a break from her education. Carole also has a master’s degree in English from the school.

“Marcus was the youngest and only one of seven children to go to college,” says Weinstein, who added that she was the only child in her family who completed an undergraduate education. “Marcus went to Richmond on the GI Bill. He would never have been able to go to college otherwise. It transformed his life.”

Weinstein served as a trustee from 1988 to 1992.  Following in her mother’s footsteps, daughter Allison, is now a member of the university’s board of trustees. She did not attend UR, completing her undergraduate and a law degree at Washington University in St. Louis. Over the years, the family, along with son-in-law Ivan Jecklin, has donated more than $25.5 million to UR. Their names adorn some of the university’s newest buildings, such as Weinstein Hall and the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness.

The new 40,000-square-foot international center, which should be ready by fall 2010, will include high-tech classrooms, support services for study abroad and international students, and the latest in facilities for language instruction.  The university will match Weinstein’s donation to complete the project.

She wanted the building’s design to serve as a metaphor for global education. Its interior is designed around an axis, which symbolizes the intersection of people traveling the world. The new center will link not only the curriculum of the university’s other schools but students to classrooms worldwide.  “Students will be able to take classes from affiliate universities around the globe in real time,” says Weinstein. “The world will be their classroom.” 

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