Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Personal Legacy

This blog was begun around the theme of family history.  This week I have been living a bit of my own family history as we laid my father to rest.  I delivered a eulogy at the service hoping I would get through it without triggering tears.   It felt important to me that I speak publicly about a man who was very much a public figure, but whom I knew through the lens of family.

I last visited my father shortly before he died.  As I walked into the room I was heartened when he exclaimed "Susela", to which I replied "Dadela", and he smiled.  That was our well worn path.  I sat with him and told him a little about what I was working on which ironically was a series of cross generational interviews in the Jewish Identity and Legacy project.  As I've written in these pages, I am interviewing elders and their children about the elder's legacy and its influence on their adult child. As I told him about it, it dawned on me that perhaps I should answer the same questions I was asking of others.

Sitting there with both my mother and father I began to tell my dad what I thought my legacy was from him.  I later wove much of what I told him into a eulogy.   What a wonderful gift to be able to share it with him directly.   A gift for him and a gift for me, nothing unfinished.

Among his many accomplishments, my father, Philip Weinberg, created the public television station that serves central Illinois.  He was a rather eclectic man with the ability to leverage technology to serve his love of culture and the arts.   He was a university professor, trained as an electrical engineer, but very much a visionary.  If something didn't exist that he felt was important, he didn't hesitate to start it.  He started the Electrical Engineering department at Bradley University and was its dean for twenty years.  Later in his career he founded and led the College of Communications and Fine Arts.  In between he built public radio, public television and numerous buildings and performance spaces. 

After his funeral the TV station interviewed me.  "Did you think it unusual that he went from being an engineer to communications and fine arts?" they asked.  "No", I replied as I thought of my own rather eclectic career spanning nonprofits, finance and the arts, a combination that never seemed unusual to me because of my father who encouraged me in all of my pursuits.   I grew up thinking you started things if they didn't exist, you loved your work and of course you would have diverse interests and explore them with passion.  Doesn't everybody? I took that for granted because that's what I witnessed every day.  Unlike the external world that saw what he did as extraordinary, I knew him in his everyday life as my Dad.  From the vantage point of that front row seat, I learned to view his perspective as the norm.  And that is quite a legacy.


  1. I know over time that you will console yourself with being able to have this final conversation with your Dad. He has a legacy that would impress anyone. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. My condolences, Susan, to you and your family. Your father was a beautiful man who gave of himself to enrich lives, a legacy that lives in you.