Remembering a “visionary”: Phil Weinberg

The Dean of the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts Jeffrey Huberman has a photo in his office of the man who was his predecessor; a man whom he calls a visionary, a mentor and a friend. That man was Phil Weinberg, and he passed away Feb. 2 at 86 years old.

“I look to it every day to keep me motivated,” Huberman said. “He was ahead of the world, and the world has always been catching up to Phil Weinberg.”

Weinberg had a long list of achievements in his time at Bradley, including founding the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1956 which he chaired for 20 years; founding the College of Communications and Fine Arts in 1977; overseeing the creation of Dingledine Music Hall, Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts and the Heuser Art Center; and founding WTVP-TV and WCBU-FM, both being public broadcasting stations in Peoria.

“He was quite a visionary in the real sense of the word,” Huberman said. “He had the ability to look years ahead and see how all the parts converged. He used that visionary sense to create academic programs and creative endeavors that were transformative for the university.”

Huberman said Weinberg saw engineering as a means to a creative end.

“Technology, for him, was a means for delivering performing arts and fine arts to the community,” he said. “I remember him seeing ‘Sesame Street’ one day and saying that we ought to have that in Peoria. You need a TV station for that, so he created one.”

Weinberg’s ability to foresee a distant future was uncanny, Huberman said.

“I saw an article once, an interview with him in The Scout, where he said in the future we would get our books on personal televisions instead of in libraries. And we would communicate through them, too,” he said. “This was in the 1970s, when no one could even comprehend the computer as we know it today. It sent shivers down my spine to read that.”

Huberman said Weinberg loved viewing the arts on campus.

“He was a person for whom the buildings he helped transform were not the end reward,” he said. “His real delight was him and his wife, Rose, attended virtually every performance and exhibition in these buildings.”

The only thing Weinberg never did well, Huberman said, was retire.

“He gave his entire being to this place, and he never stopped,” he said. “He kept coming back to walk the halls and see the things he had done. He was one of the most influential figures on this campus.”

Executive Director at WCBU Tom Hunt said he met Weinberg his first day on the job in 2004.

“An older gentleman came into the office, sat down and we talked for 45 minutes. He talked about the fact that he had wanted to see a public radio station in Peoria,” he said. “Phil was the driving force behind making this a full-power station.”

Hunt said Weinberg was the kind of man who never slowed down.

“If he wanted to get something done, he did it himself,” Hunt said. “He used to talk about how he did the wheeling and dealing for the station. He would joke that he went out west and stole the station transmitter from some mountain top.”

Hunt said even after retiring, Weinberg was a facet of the campus.

“This was his life. He was very proud of Bradley,” he said. “He had a vision to his dying day, and he let everybody know it.”