The Woman, Mrs. Wiess


You have heard, and will hear, much today of what the bequest of Mrs. Wiess means to Southwestern University and how much Methodism and the State are indebted to her for lifting this institution from the slough of despond and opening the way to greater good. I join with you heartily in these sentiments. The alumni are grateful that they have not been orphaned, as seemed possible a year ago.
   What I wish to say, however, has nothing to do with this. It could be spoken as justly if she had not left anything to Southwestern or indeed had had no wealth to bestow. I would pay a humble tribute to the character of Mrs. Wiess as a mother, a friend, a truly Christian woman.
   The sweetest friendships I have ever enjoyed have been those with elderly people. It was my privilege to count Mrs. Wiess my friend during the eventide of her life. It was evident that she had unconsciously adopted the advice of Cicero, as he says in his Essay on Old Age: "Believe me, my young friends, the best and surest guard against the inconveniences of old age is to cultivate in each preceding period the principles of moral science, and uniformly to exercise those virtues it prescribes. The good seeds which you shall thus have sown in the former seasons of life will, in the winter of your days, be wonderfully productive of the noblest and most valuable fruit-valuable not only as a possession which will remain with you even to your latest moments, but also as a conscious retrospect on a long life marked with an uninterrupted series of laudable and beneficent actions, affording a perpetual source of the sweetest and most exquisite satisfaction."
   Her family life was beautiful. As a wife she was a partner in the truest sense of the word; as a mother and grandmother she was devoted; even those more distantly related felt the warmth of her love. The relationship between this mother and her children was beautiful. I am sure her love, precept, and guidance in a large measure made it possible for her in her old age to be proud of a son who not only has risen to be a commanding figure in the business world, but who has the respect and admiration of his fellow citizens as a man of character and one thoroughly interested in every cause looking to the betterment of his employees and of humanity in general.
   I am sure it is a source of great comfort to all to know that they did everything possible to cherish and comfort her in her declining years. I have never known a more devoted son and daughter.
   Mrs. Wiess was virtually an invalid for years, but instead of allowing herself to become selfish and self-centered, she was ever thoughtful of others. She took a keen interest in the lives of those about her and I was often struck by her memory of details about my family and all of her friends. It was her custom for years to make a pound cake on her birthday. On the day she was seventy-two, she got up from her sick bed and made one and sent pieces of it to her friends. I was deeply touched when I received one with a card reading: "Cake baked by Mrs. William Wiess on her 72nd birthday." A woman of rigid piety and inflexible standards in her own life, she showed the virtue of Christian charity towards others who did not conform strictly to her own ideals.
   I wish I had the ability to express adequately my admiration of this truly great and good woman. I can do no more than say that she embodied my ideal of a Christian woman and that she deserves a place on the rolls along with Abu ben Adhem and for the same reason because she loved her fellow man.


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