Though Ron Weiser has a large office on Main Street, he does his work on a small table in the corner of the room. Most of the office is adorned with University wrestling medals, Slovakian artifacts, pictures with former U.S. presidents and senators and other memorabilia from his past.
Weiser is one of the Republican candidates running for the Board of Regents, alongside Dr. Rob Steele. The two, in addition to Democratic candidates Mike Behm and Katherine White, will vie for two contested seats on Election Day. The seats are those of current regents White and Julia Darlow (D). Darlow is not seeking re-election.
Originally raised in St. Joseph, Mich., Weiser moved to Ann Arbor in 1962 to study accounting at the University.
After graduating with honors, he did postgraduate work at the Law School and the Business School. In 2005, the Business School honored him with the David D. Alger Award for Outstanding Alumni.
Shortly after graduating, Weiser founded McKinley Associates, a real-estate venture that eventually grew to be valued at $4.6 billion.
Following the company’s success, Weiser served on many boards for non-profit organizations including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the United Negro College Fund of Washtenaw County and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. For his community involvement, he received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2001, former President George W. Bush appointed Weiser as Ambassador to the Slovak Republic for four years. During his time, he organized three international investment conferences for the country and coordinated American support for the restoration of the medieval Trencin Castle.
His diplomatic service inspired him to create the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia and the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University.
The former ambassador has also been an active member of the Republican Party, serving as the Chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 2009 and the National Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee in 2011.
Weiser intends to bring his wide array of skill sets to the Board on a platform of keeping tuition low and strengthening the University’s satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn.
“I’ve got political background, diplomatic background, business background, financial background — that is different and unique compared to the current regents we have,” he said.
Weiser said the University’s current budgeting method does not incentivize savings and does not allow budgets from one area to be moved to other, more constrained areas. He plans to change the way the University budgets funds as a method for bringing down tuition. He also plans to provide prospective students with a clear understanding of what their tuition will be over the entirety of their undergraduate career.
In addition, Weiser said he understands the importance of the University’s satellite campuses for lower-income, part-time working students, as the cost of living in Flint and Dearborn is much less expensive than in Ann Arbor.
He plans on developing classes and programs at the Flint and Dearborn campuses at the same educational standard as in Ann Arbor through increasing online learning and requesting Ann Arbor professors commute to the other campuses.
“It’s not difficult — assuming there’s the demand for courses that are offered here that are not offered in those campuses — for professors or whoever is teaching to put a section into those schools and give them the same opportunity,” he said.
To further stimulate the Michigan economy, Weiser said he believes in expanding the University’s research programs, stating they will drive new businesses to the state and generate startups.
Weiser also said he recognizes the importance of a diverse student body to the overall educational atmosphere.
Last school year, many students expressed discontent with the lack of diversity at the University, most notably through the Black Student Union’s viral #BBUM Twitter campaign that garnered national attention. Since then, the University has worked with students and faculty to renovate and restore the Trotter Multicultural Center, among other initiatives.
Weiser said he plans to increase diversity in part by lowering tuition.
“There’s all kinds of diversities that I think are important to give everybody the opportunity to have the broadest interaction and to have the best ability to work and live in the world that we have,” he said.