Creating a Legacy of Giving
When Ann Wall Weisgarber '76 and Rob Weisgarber '77 think back to their days at Wright State, they recall fond memories of their classes and professors and having enjoyed all that the campus had to offer.
"We had a total of three classes together, so we gradually got to know each other from our classes," said Ann. "When we were dating, we did quite a few things together on campus basketball games, concerts, lecture series."
But to this day, what the Weisgarbers appreciate most is the quality of the education they received at Wright State.
"This was my first exposure to being in a classroom setting with older students, and it was an eye opener for me. I had always been with people my own age, but suddenly here were these Vietnam vets and men coming in during their lunch breaks to take classes," recalled Ann. "It was also my first time to be in classrooms with people who had profound disabilities. That was inspiring."
Rob came to Wright State after spending three years in the Army. "Wright State offered me the chance to get a professional degree in accounting and enter the business world," he said. "I'm very proud of the degree and very proud of Wright State. Going to Wright State and doing well there is what gave me the confidence to do a lot of things later on in my life and in my career."
After graduation, Rob landed a job with Exxon in Houston, Texas. After three years at Exxon, he left to pursue his MBA at Harvard Business School. "Wright State was a great preparation for Harvard. I had an excellent business education there," Rob recalled.
After Harvard, the Weisgarbers returned to Texas. Rob spent a year at Price Waterhouse and then joined an oil field service company. After the bottom fell out of the oil field service and energy business in 1986, Rob spent seven years as a controller for a chemical manufacturing company that made powder paints. In the early 1990s, he was vice president of finance for a plastic manufacturer in Houston.
When Rob was offered the CFO position at SteelWorks, the Weisgarbers moved to Des Moines, Iowa. But after three years in Iowa, Texas was calling them home. They returned to Houston in 1998. From 1998 to 2003, Rob was CFO of a toy company. Since then, he has worked as chief accounting officer for an oil field service company and in his current position as a partner with Tatum LLC, a consulting company.
"Every step of the way, I have used my accounting education," explained Rob, who said he is always proud of how well Wright State's graduates perform on the CPA exam every year. "I think it's well recognized that the accounting program provides an excellent education and it has for all these years."
The thought of writing a novel had never crossed Ann Weisgarber's mind - until one cold day in Iowa. Homesick for Texas and home alone while Rob was traveling on business, Ann decided she needed a personal challenge. "I thought 'Why not write a book?' That's how naive I was about the whole process," she recalled. "It was something I thought about and just wanted to see if I could do it. It all started because I always loved to read, but it was not a lifelong dream - at all."
Ann credits her Wright State education with helping her excel as a novelist. "That liberal arts background taught me very early on that there are many different points of view. It's fun to assume a different point of view."
And that's exactly what Ann does in her debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. The title character, an African American woman in 1917, struggles in the South Dakota Badlands with her husband and children. It is a rare glimpse into the lives of an African American ranch family in the American West.
And that's exactly what Ann does in her novels, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree and The Promise. In Rachel DuPree, the title characteran African American woman in 1917struggles in the South Dakota Badlands with her husband and children. It is a rare glimpse into the lives of an African American ranch family in the American West.
The Promise tells the riveting story of Catherine Wainwright who flees to Galveston, Texasamidst the worst hurricane in Texas historyto escape her scandalous past. Both books have received critical acclaim, including the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction and the Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction for The Personal History of Rachel DuPree.
After years of supporting Wright State's Annual Fund and being lifetime members of the Alumni Association, the Weisgarbers began to think about the causes they would like to support in their retirement and even after their deaths. "We always came back to Wright State, because we both had such positive experiences there. We both felt we had such a good start in life by attending Wright State," Rob explained.
So the couple decided to establish the Robert L. Weisgarber and Ann D. Weisgarber Endowed Scholarships. Rob's scholarship will benefit students in the Raj Soin College of Business and Ann's scholarship will support students in the College of Liberal Arts. Both scholarships take effect upon their deaths.
The Weisgarbers wanted to help students who might be struggling to pay for their Wright State education. As Rob explained, the scholarships would allow deserving students to spend more time studying than working, giving them the freedom to enjoy the full college experience "without having to juggle too many balls in the air at once with school and work."
"It gives us great pleasure," said Ann. "It's nice to think that the scholarships will help change people's lives."