Walter Weber ’91: Gratitude in a Nutshell

By Connor Fogel | November 24, 2021

As a high school student in the 1970s, Walter Weber knew Beaver College as nothing more than a local school with a castle—a common sight in the rearview mirror of his tow truck as he worked along Route 309. Fifty years later, that teenager is a proud Arcadia alumnus and is committed to paying forward educational opportunities for other non-traditional students at the University.

Weber grew up from humble beginnings. After moving around following his dad’s US Air Force career, they settled in Hatfield, Pa. He was raised in a family where hard work, discipline, and dedication were keys to an honest living. Determined to be the first in his family to graduate from college, in 1973 he enrolled at Penn State University and a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program after high school, only to withdraw due to a series of financial setbacks. Instead, he began an entry- level sales position at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, eventually spending 16 years as an outside salesman for Westinghouse.

With time, it became more important to Weber to complete his degree. In a rather serendipitous coincidence, Weber discovered that Beaver College intersected directly with his daily sales route.

He submitted his transcripts to enroll as a business student and was connected with Professor Emeritus Dr. William Biggs, then chair of the School of Business.

“I was very fortunate that Westinghouse Corporation paid for my continuing education courses,” said Weber. “I am eternally grateful to Dr. Biggs, who saw my situation and made my transition to becoming a college graduate easy, one or two classes at a time.”

Following long work hours, sometimes up to 70 hours a week, Weber attended his Beaver College classes and returned home to complete course work, only to wake up early the next morning to begin again. 

It took discipline to work all day and attend class at night while balancing homework and family life.

“I was at Beaver to learn with purpose, and my priority was to finish school,” said Weber. “I received a very meaningful education with real-world experiences. It was during my time at Beaver where I heard different perspectives, learned the realities of the business world, and developed critical thinking skills that changed the trajectory of my future.”

In 1991, Weber earned his degree in Business Administration—a dream come true for him and his entire family. Weber notes that in earning his degree, he forever changed his family tree.

“My wife and I both grew up in very humble beginnings. We have a very similar mindset that we have to do things ourselves. We didn’t have a safety net; there was no room for failure. It was up to us to change our family tree and to make sure that our children had the resources and opportunities to become successful.”

Shortly after graduating from Beaver, Weber transitioned to a new company, where he established a substantive career in the electrical wholesale industry. He retired in 2021 and continues to work as a consultant.

Weber’s pistachio orchard in Madera, Calif.

In 1997, Weber had an opportunity to invest in a partnership business—a pistachio orchard in Madera, California. The economics behind pistachio farming fascinated him. Pistachios had been in high demand since the 1970s, when the U.S. placed an embargo on all products from Iran, including pistachios. At that time, agricultural land in California was also relatively cheap. However, pistachio farming was an expensive—and long—endeavor; the process from planting to harvesting would take seven years, equating to a nearly decade-long wait before the Webers would begin to see a return on their investment. Channeling the critical thinking and strategies he learned at Beaver College, both Walter and his wife Bonnie took a bold, calculated risk to invest their youngest children’s college savings into the business.

“Low and behold, the pistachio business is booming,” said Weber. “We now have about 12 partnerships with about 125 acres of pistachio orchards. By the time our youngest children were ready to go off to college, the return on investment covered their full tuition and living costs. We’ve been very blessed.”

Twenty years after Weber’s graduation from Beaver College, a long-awaited opportunity arose. With their children’s college tuition covered and a financial surplus from the pistachio business, the Webers were ready to demonstrate their gratitude for Beaver College in a meaningfully charitable way.

In June 2021, the Webers added to their existing scholarship fund to strengthen the Walter ’91 and Bonita Weber Endowed Scholarship, which is designed to provide financial support for non-traditional aged business students or graduates of North Penn High School with demonstrated financial need.

Following the mantra of one of his favorite financial gurus, Dave Ramsey, Weber’s intent was to pay his experience forward with a hand up to others, not a hand out. The ultimate goal of the scholarship is to give someone else the opportunity to change their family tree—the very same priceless gift that he had received so many years ago.

Walter and Bonita Weber.

“This scholarship is for the hardworking people who are pursuing their degrees the non-traditional way because they don’t have another option, they can’t take on more debt, or they have other responsibilities,” said Weber. “I want them to experience an Arcadia education, despite their circumstances and without financial burden.”

The Walter ’91 and Bonita Weber Endowed Scholarship was supplemented through the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative, through which the University provides a 1:1 match for their support, doubling the impact of a donor’s gift.

“We both feel so blessed,” said Weber. “It’s a thrill to give back to others. It’s very meaningful to us to be able to do that. In life, you have three things to share with the world: your time, your talent, and your treasure. It’s just rewarding to know that we will one day leave the world in a better place. We try to be conscious of that every day.”