Benefactors’ $1.25M Gift to Support Low Vision Suite at The University of Scranton

May 3, 2016

The president and CEO of The Cooper Companies (NYSE:COO) in Pleasanton, California, and his wife have made a $1.25 million gift to The University of Scranton that will not only enhance the educational and research experience for students and faculty but create greater quality of local life across a spectrum of ages.

In recognition of the generous support from Robert Weiss ’68, a University Trustee and member of the President’s Circle and Estate Society, and his wife, Marilyn, who studied at the University through the Scranton State General Hospital School of Nursing, a suite inside the Edward R. Leahy Hall now bears the couple’s name.

“The Robert and Marilyn Weiss Pediatric Low Vision Research and Training Suite is a testament to the cutting-edge vision of two of the University’s most loyal benefactors and friends,” said University of Scranton President Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. “Students, faculty and the community will benefit tremendously from the research performed and the treatment offered through the suite, which aligns well with our vision for an engaged community that uses its gifts and talents to care for those in greatest need.”

Weiss is a certified public accountant and earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University. The gift also will support student scholarships in accounting and philosophy.

Weiss has had a distinguished 38-year career with The Cooper Companies, a multinational manufacturer and marketer of specialty health-care products that operates through two business units, CooperVision and CooperSurgical.

CooperVision, which crafts a wide range of products for contact-lens wearers and provides practitioner support, has a natural mission fit with the new suite.

“CooperVision is a ‘quality-of-life company,’” Weiss, a Lake Ariel native, has said. “This is what the new building, and this suite, stand for, too. I hope Leahy Hall will enhance the quality of life for both the young and the old.”

Debra Pellegrino, Ed.D., dean of the Panuska College of Professional Studies, noted the life-changing breakthroughs that happen inside the suite and will continue to happen thanks to the gift.

“When you help someone with low-vision rehabilitation, you’re helping them with independence, with quality of life,” Dr. Pellegrino said, explaining that the work done inside the suite ties in well to the Jesuit motto of doing all for the ‘greater glory of God.’

The work done with low-vision patients, she said, is not exclusive to pediatrics and is transformative at all stages of life.

When elderly patients become able to read labels in grocery stores and therefore make wiser choices, or when they become safer in their kitchens because they can see more clearly, she said, “You are really seeing God in all things.”

Plenty of the work done inside the suite transforms children’s lives as well, Dr. Pellegrino said, and several faculty members are doing research on low vision in children and have published in prestigious journals. The gift, she said, makes further important research possible.

The gift also helps faculty and students tie their work more closely into a key element of University’s strategic plan – engagement – with each other, with students, with the faculty and with the wider community, Dr. Pellegrino said.

The strategic plan also calls for students and faculty to “connect theory to practice,” she said, noting, “This gift allows that to really happen.”

The gift will benefit students across a range of majors within the Panuska College of Professional Studies, she said, naming counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy and health administration as examples.

On a practical level, Dr. Pellegrino said, gifts like this also help tremendously with equipment.

“Our equipment is definitely cutting edge,” she said, explaining that University equipment is classified at Research 1 level, on par with major research universities.

Weiss, who has been chief operating officer, chief financial officer, corporate controller and treasurer at Cooper as well as president of CooperVision, also is a member of the company’s Board of Directors as well as a member of the Board of Directors for Accuray Incorporated, a global radiosurgery leader.

The former U.S. Army Captain was awarded two Bronze Stars and the Army Commendation Medal during his service in Vietnam. In 2008 he received the University’s Frank J. O’Hara Alumni Award for management.

Marilyn Weiss, the former Marilyn Chesick, a Scranton native, has been head nurse at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, N.Y., and a pediatric nurse at Bayside Pediatrics in Pleasanton. She is now active with the Tri Valley Repertory Theatre in Pleasanton.

The couple have three children, Chris, Doug and Kim, and two grandchildren.

“Bob and Marilyn are absolutely phenomenal human beings who have been so involved,” Dr. Pellegrino said. “You can just tell that they know this gift will make such a difference.”
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