Samuel and Helen Weaver were significant supporters of EMU and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. A $1.54 million bequest to CJP to establish the Samuel H. and Helen W. Weaver Family Peacebuilding Endowment will go a long way in supporting its vision and mission.

‘A remarkable and beautiful legacy’

$1.54M Weaver bequest for CJP among largest single gifts in EMU history

Samuel and Helen Weaver lived to serve others. They gave generously of their time to the churches they attended and the communities they were a part of in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and later Harrisonburg, Virginia. Helen, known to many as an excellent cook, arrived early to church gatherings to prepare meals. Afterward, she and her husband Samuel stayed late to stack chairs and wash dishes.

For more than a decade, the couple volunteered at Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair-trade shop in Harrisonburg. While Helen worked inside the store, Samuel lent his accounting skills to the business. 

“Service was always a big part of their lives, recalls their son, Matt Weaver, “and often, that service wasn’t anything glamorous or anything they mentioned to other people. It was them doing the most trivial jobs that other people didn’t want to do. But, they did it because that’s the kind of people they were.”

Helen and Samuel died in July 2012 and February 2023, respectively, but their legacy of service and generosity lives on. A $1.54 million bequest to establish the Samuel H. and Helen W. Weaver Family Peacebuilding Endowment will go a long way in supporting the vision and mission of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. It ranks among the top three largest endowments to EMU in its 106-year history.

Although they did not attend EMU, Samuel and Helen were staunch supporters of its students and programs. They were members of Park View Mennonite Church and had close friends in the EMU community, such as Wendy Lederach and Don and Margaret Foth. Don, an administrator emeritus at EMU, volunteered at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) in his retirement. He died on March 27.

Because of those connections, said CJP Advancement Director Lindsay Martin, Samuel and Helen were aware of CJP from its very beginning. The Foths would have shared many stories of CJP students, especially those coming from other parts of the world, with Samuel and Helen, she said.

“I think Sam connected with those stories and CJP’s global emphasis, particularly because of his own experiences working in other countries,” Martin said. “He saw CJP as an example of a global community, one with people working toward the greater good of all—and I think that matched his worldview closely.” 

After Helen’s death at age 82, Samuel continued to support EMU and its justice and peacebuilding efforts. In 2019, he established a $50,000 endowed scholarship fund that provides need-based financial support to students in the graduate program at CJP. Samuel died at age 92 following a battle with cancer, but not before finalizing the endowment funding plan with his two sons, Mike and Matt, and ensuring CJP was included in his estate plans.

Kirk Shisler, vice president for advancement at EMU, said the endowment will fund academic programs, training initiatives, faculty and other creative endeavors at CJP.

“The Weavers’ gift is so incredibly timely as it will sustain CJP faculty and program investments, including a full-time faculty position in restorative justice and a new program director role, for which a search is now underway,” shared Shisler.

David Brubaker, dean of the School of Social Sciences and Professions (which includes CJP), said the endowment will support existing academic and training programs as well as help to fund “new creative initiatives needed in an increasingly polarized and traumatized world.”

EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman said the gift will have a profoundly beneficial impact on CJP, especially as it continues to adapt to the changing landscape of justice and peacebuilding needs across the globe.

“Samuel and Helen Weaver’s encounter with CJP students and program leaders ignited their vision for the transformative power of justice and peacebuilding on a global scale,” she said. “We are truly grateful and heartened by their generosity.”

Early life and career

Samuel Horton Weaver was born in May 1930 in Champaign, Illinois. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Cambridge University, a master’s degree in history from Columbia University, a doctorate in American history from American University in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree in business administration from Ohio University. Much of his early career was spent working for the U.S. government, including for the Library of Congress in D.C. He started working for the U.S. Foreign Service in 1955 and was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador from 1958 to 1960 and in Brazil from 1961 to 1963. He then worked in the Latin American section of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. State Department.

Born Helen Esther Wiens in Inman, Kansas, in May 1930, she was raised in a Mennonite family. She worked for Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pennsylvania, and for the National Service Board for Religious Objectors in D.C.

Samuel and Helen met in D.C. and married in March 1967. They moved to St. Clairsville, a city about 70 miles west of Pittsburgh where Samuel taught at Ohio University’s Eastern Campus and Helen worked at the Belmont County Health Department. In their retirement the couple moved to Harrisonburg, partly due to its proximity to D.C. and because of some close friends who lived there. From his time spent around the EMU community, Samuel developed an appreciation and respect for Mennonites. Matt Weaver said his father shared many of the same core values as Mennonites and believed in the mission of CJP.

“He liked the idea of giving to an organization that does some good,” said Matt Weaver.

Samuel and Helen were members of the Jubilee Friend Society, a group of more than 630 alumni and donors who include EMU in their estate plans. In April 2022, Samuel and his sons finalized their endowment funding plan with EMU Advancement. Shisler said the Weaver family was impressed by the impact of their scholarship fund established a few years prior. 

“They were instilled with a level of confidence that an estate commitment of this magnitude would be well-managed and have a sustained impact,” he said. “It’s truly a remarkable and beautiful legacy.”

Learn more about the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and give to the program at

Join the Discussion on “‘A remarkable and beautiful legacy’

  1. I am delighted to read this tribute. We only knew the Weavers as members at PVMC and did indeed see them both volunteering many times at different tasks. We’ve missed them but happy to know they live on with this important legacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *