Former architect professor pushed students to become productive in society

By Edward Singleton

Robert Theodore Weiss former architecture professor who taught at East Los Angeles College for 31 years died on Jan. 26. Weiss, a former Korean War veteran, began teaching at ELAC in the fall of 1961 and retired in 1991.

As a young man, Weiss attended ELAC where he earned a scholarship to the University of Southern California. He graduated from ELAC in 1944. While attending USC he became good friends with Fred Hassouna, who would later become chairman of ELAC’s Architectural Department and instrumental in encouraging Weiss to pursue a career in education.

As a professor at ELAC, Weiss became Associate Professor of Architecture in 1968, and in 1973 he was promoted to Professor of Architecture. He then became Chairman of the Architecture Department following Hassouna’s transfer to Saddleback College.

Music played a big part in Weiss’s life. He performed in his high school orchestra and was selected to play for the Los Angeles All  City Orchestra. While attending USC, he played in the concert orchestra and in the marching band. One New Years Day, in order to march in the Tournament of Roses parade, Weiss had to have white shoes in order to comply with uniform standards. Not having any money, he painted his black shoes white.

The school newspaper for Stevenson Jr. High, his former middle school,  had a limerick about him:

 There is a young man named Weiss,
Who is handsome, clever and nice,
He blew on his hornie,
His teacher said “cornie,”
And now he is as quiet as a mice.

Weiss said about his philosophy toward education “to nurture and encourage each student to do their best, so they may reach their goal of becoming an architect. Personal feelings are not to prevent a student from obtaining the skills necessary to transfer or enter the workforce. Many students have succeeded because we encouraged and gave them the chance to become a productive member of society.” Jerry Ishino, a good friend of Weiss and current architecture professor at ELAC, has adopted Weiss’s same philosophy.

Weiss served as President to the Association of Students and Architect’s Society. He was also a member of the varsity football team with a high scholarship average, scholarship member for three years and member of the Ephebian Society for excellence in scholarship, citizenship and leadership.

As a young man, his friend Johnny Agapoff and him would sift through trashcans looking for salvage to sell. They would sell magazines door to door and shine shoes at busy street corners. Weiss didn’t mind getting his hands dirty, his hard work and dedication to succeed as a young man was unquestioned. His character was that of a gentlemen, his work ethic was strong and his impact on the world was positive.

Jerry Ishino, long time friend of Weiss had this to say “It’s sad when someone as nice as Bob passes on, but I believe it would be nicer to make it a celebration of a life, rather than a very somber event.  For he was such a wonderful person to each one he met.”

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