16 Things: Longtime KU staff member, assistant to the chancellor shares stories of world travels

Editor’s note: This is another in an occasional series of stories by reporter Andy Hyland, who’s been asking Kansas University staff members to share “16 Things I’ve Done.” Today’s installment features Jeff Weinberg, a longtime KU staff member who most recently worked as an assistant to the chancellor.

Jeff Weinberg, assistant to the chancellor at Kansas University, is entering phased retirement. One of his hobbies and passions is painting.

1) Spent time outdoors hunting, fishing and on horseback while growing up in the southeast Kansas town of Coffeyville.

2) Found the love of his life, Mary, at Coffeyville Community College, where his father was a trustee for more than 40 years, and had two daughters.

3) Spent 50 years at KU. He once worked for Emily Taylor, KU’s longtime dean of women.

“I lit her cigarettes and got her coffee,” he said. He remembered how she called him into her office one day.

“Weinberg, I think you’re worth something,” she told him and moved him on to other duties. She would go on to eventually became one of the most important figures in his life, he said.

4) Moved to the financial aid office before vice chancellor for student affairs David Ambler chose him as his assistant vice chancellor and became assistant to former Chancellor Robert Hemenway — initially after the chancellor asked Ambler if he could “borrow” him for awhile, “to see if we liked each other,” Weinberg said.

5) Spent two days volunteering with Mother Teresa in Calcutta in 1976 at the Little Sisters of the poor ashram while on a trip for Rotary International.

“She said there would be a place for me as long as I would help,” Weinberg said.

During the same trip, spent a morning in private with then-prime minister Indira Gandhi.

6) Climbed Mount Hurricane in the Adirondack Mountains. He was proud of the accomplishment and can report that going down was actually harder than going up.

“Going down, you use muscles that you’d never use going up,” he said.

7) Had the photo opportunity of his life in 2008 at the Taj Mahal. He spotted a woman looking out the door of a mosque toward the Taj Mahal, and took a photo. One can just make out the outline of the woman, shrouded in white, as she looks out past the ornate walls into the incoming sun.

“United Airlines put it in their magazine,” he said, after he entered and won a photo contest.

8) Worked with Hemenway as he was reorganizing the university on sheets of white paper — sometimes late at night. Hemenway was a very logical thinker, Weinberg recalled, and wasn’t afraid to make changes that he saw were necessary.

“What I wish I had kept were those big white sheets of paper,” he said.

9) Discovered “the glories of emeralds” while with KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in Bogota to visit the president of Colombia during a recent visit.

They had a free afternoon during the trip and visited the vaults of one of the most respected emerald dealers in the world, Weinberg said. It was a visit set up by his daughter through her diamond and emerald dealer. The fact that they had been with the president was well-known to the emerald dealer, too, he said.

10) Got called to task once by one of his superiors and was showed some “tough love” for not focusing appropriately on his work in the financial aid office because his mind was elsewhere as he was considering an opportunity in the U.S. State Department. He got some good advice, he said, and made a decision he didn’t regret and stayed at KU.

11) Paints in his basement studio. He often draws and photographs places he’s been around the world. His work has been displayed on the KU campus.

12) Traveled across the world, both on his own time and as part of his duties at KU. He said he enjoyed finding both the public and hidden beauty of places like Paris, Brussels, Rome, Venice, Delhi, Beijing, Seoul and many more.

13) Made many, many friends and connections — both at the university, but also many outside the university and in the community.

14) Taught undergraduate classes and said he encountered some of the finest students a teacher could ask for.

“Each semester, I am renewed by their presence,” he said.

15) Wrote an (as yet) unpublished novel. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place in India the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 to Indian independence from Great Britain in 1947.

16) Entered phased retirement this year, and will go to work in the KU Honors Program as a teacher and adviser next year before fully retiring.