Matt, T'00, and Joanna, T'99, Weiss met serving on Duke's Hillel board together, and now live in Manhattan with their three children, Ethan, Seth, and Aviva. Matt, a current JLD Advisory Board member, hails from South Florida and works as an investment analyst and Vice President at Baron Capital. Joanna, who is originally from the Philadelphia area, works an attorney in the General Counsel's office at a large law firm.
Why did you choose Duke?
Matt: Of all the schools I considered, Duke stood out as the best mix of academics, campus and social life, athletics and spirit. A visit to Cosmic Cantina on my first visit also helped to seal the deal.
Joanna: My dad did part of his medical training at Duke, and I lived in Durham when I was a toddler, before my family moved back to the Philadelphia area. My family remained huge Duke basketball fans so when I came to visit Duke on my college tour, I felt like I was home. Then when I came back as an admitted student for Blue Devil Days, I was impressed that almost everyone on campus was wearing a piece of Duke clothing -- I loved that school spirit.
What did you study at Duke? What were you involved in?
M: I studied Spanish and History. I lived in Mirecourt and was active in Hillel, serving as President my senior year. I also started a student focused venture capital firm with three friends just before graduation that kept me extremely busy.
J: I was a Public Policy Studies major with a focus on media studies. I also minored in French. I was involved with Hillel, Duke Friends of Israel, and my sorority.
What is your fondest Duke memory?
M: Anything involving benches burning.
J: I have two fondest Duke memories: the first was when Matt and I first connected with each other -- I was a junior and he was a sophomore, and we were at a Hillel ice cream social at Ben & Jerry's for incoming freshmen. The second was when I came back for my five year reunion and Matt surprised me, first by showing up, and second by proposing to me where we had first met -- in the Chapel basement, which is where the Hillel office used to be!
You both witnessed some important firsts for the Freeman Center. What was it like to be at the groundbreaking of the Center and its inaugural Jewish Baccalaureate ceremony?
M: I was a freshman, and I distinctly recall taking the bus from East Campus to celebrate the groundbreaking. It was a very cool moment, replete with ceremonial shovels, hard hats, and blueprints, and a memory that I've grown to appreciate even more now that the Center is celebrating its 18th year.
J: It was extremely meaningful to me that at one of my last events on campus, I was able to be a part of one of the first events in the brand new Freeman Center for Jewish Life. It was special and moving to gather together with my classmates and our families at the dedication of the Freeman Center, which we had watched grow from nothing to something amazing during our time at Duke.
Why do you think its important to have a Jewish space on campus?
Although the former Hillel office in the Chapel basement will always have a place in our hearts, before the Center was built, it was a constant challenge to strengthen the Jewish community at Duke without a large space to call home. Shabbat dinners and Passover Seders at the old Hillel House were squeezed tight; High Holiday services were held in Chemistry classrooms; and keeping kosher was extremely challenging. With a dedicated space, the Jewish community at Duke has a vibrant and welcoming place to spend time together.