Robert Orr Weiss
April 8, 1926 – January 31, 2019
On Thursday, January 31, 2019, Dr. Robert Orr Weiss, long-time DePauw University professor, loving husband, and father of four children passed away at the age of 92.
Dr. Weiss was born on April 8, 1926, in Kalamazoo, MI to Nicholas John and Ruth (Orr) Weiss. He was a World War II veteran and went to school on the GI bill. He received a BA (magna cum laude) in speech from Albion College (1948) and MA and Ph.D. from Northwestern University (1949 and 1954). He earned Phi Beta Kappa recognition.
Dr. Weiss joined the faculty of what is now the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at DePauw in 1955, was department head from 1963 to 1978, 1985-1986 and 1993 and retired as professor emeritus in 1997. He was director of the intercollegiate debate program at DePauw for 41 years and always considered his students and debaters his main inspiration and source of any accomplishments he had. His portrait currently hangs in the Performing Arts Center at DePauw.
Dr. Weiss’s love of debate led him to play a leadership role in changing the rules by which many college debate tournaments were conducted and judged. In 1985, Dr. Weiss proposed "the audience standard,” in which debaters would not be judged solely on technical merit but rather on the effect of their arguments on a public audience. Many debate tournament directors adopted this standard.
In 1962, Dr. Weiss and a team of four DePauw students he coached became the talk of the nation when they were crowned champions of the GE College Bowl. "These four young people and their coach (Professor Robert O. Weiss) have brought more honor to DePauw than anything else that has happened in the 11 years I've been here," President Russell J. Humbert declared at a campus rally following the College Bowl victory.
Dr. Weiss was active in many national professional organizations and received multiple awards over his long career. He is the author of a 1995 book on debate theory, Public Argument. He and his wife, Ann, helped establish the oral communication competence program at DePauw and were among the founders of the National Association of Communication Centers.
Dr. Weiss is also remembered by family and friends for his keen intellect, wonderful sense of humor, even temperament and dedication to his career and family that were an inspiration to all who knew him.
Dr. Weiss is survived by his wife of 67 years, Ann Lawson Weiss; daughter Betsy Omidvaran (Shahab) of Dublin, Ireland; son John Weiss (Martha) of St. Louis, MO; son Jim Weiss (Jony) of Arcadia, CA; daughter Ginger Danz (Jonathan) of Fayetteville, WV; four grandchildren, Sandra Bosak (Brad), Lauren Weiss, Zora Danz and William Weiss, and one great-grandchild, Clarabelle Ann Bosak.
The family is grateful for the outpouring of love and support from friends, former students of Dr. Weiss and extended family members. We plan to have a memorial service sometime this spring, for which we will post the details in the Banner-Graphic.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: N.J. Weiss Student Debate Fund, c/o DePauw University, P.O. Box 37, Greencastle, IN 46135.
Bittles and Hurt Funeral Home are in charge of the arrangements.