Family creates Weir Education Award in honor of late wife and mother

Apr 17, 2023
John and Glenna Weir
John and Glenna Weir

When the Weir family lost their matriarch suddenly in October 2022, they quickly determined how to share her legacy with others in an impactful way — by establishing a scholarship at Newman University in her honor.

Getting to know Glenna Weir

Glenna Weir and the love of her life, John, were married for 55 years. 

In the late 1960s, John and Glenna Weir met on a blind date after an Oklahoma Sooners football game at the University of Kansas (KU) where John played football. After the game, the two went to Lone Star Lake Park where John serenaded Glenna to the tune of “Under the Bamboo Tree” — a song that the Weir children would remember fondly from their childhood. John and Glenna were married on Sept. 12, 1969. They moved to Wichita in 1970.

Glenna Jean Weir, January 18, 1949  -  October 19, 2022 (Courtesy photo)
Glenna Jean Weir, Jan. 18, 1949 – Oct. 19, 2022 (Courtesy photo)

Glenna earned a degree in elementary education in 1971, where she completed 36 hours of teaching at Wichita State University. She began her teaching career in the Wichita Catholic School District at St. Margaret Mary where she encountered and befriended the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) sisters, several of whom attended Glenna’s rosary and funeral. 

“That’s when she made her ‘transition to maturity,’” John said. “Father Ivan Eck gave her her first teaching job after she student-taught second-graders at Garrison Elementary School. The elderly lady she taught with was absolutely marvelous. That just made all the difference in the world to Glenna.”

The Weirs befriended Father Tom Welk, and began attending Mass on the Newman campus with their four children: Jenny, Angie, Jessie and Scotty. Welk baptized each of John and Glenna’s four children and presided or attended each of their weddings to date. He also baptized John’s father as a Catholic convert when he was 68 years old.

When it became a struggle for the Weirs to put food on the table in the early 1980s, Welk was instrumental in introducing John to the oil business and Glenna returned to teaching.

The family of six was quickly “adopted” by members of Newman University (then Kansas Newman College).

Father Tom Welk offers Mass near the Marian Grotto outside of Sacred Heart Hall in the 70s.
Father Tom Welk offers Mass near the Marian Grotto outside of Sacred Heart Hall in the 70s.

A woman by the name of Mary Masters was in charge of the cafeteria and fed the Weir family on Sundays after Mass with the leftovers — free of charge. In gratitude for Mary Masters’ generosity, John and Welk later designated a room on the eighth floor of Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice in her honor. 

“There are all kinds of different connections with priests and the ASC sisters even after all these years,” John said. “Newman is pretty special.”

Glenna taught preschool at East Heights United Methodist Church, followed by St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Sacrament Catholic School. Even after retiring in 2006, she continued to teach every day.

“When she was a stay-at-home mom, my siblings and myself benefited from her teaching,” explained daughter Angie (Weir) McCoy, assistant dean of the School of Business & Technology and Master of Business Administration program director. “She was very creative, always doing crafts and coming up with wonderful things. And when she retired, she then focused on the grandkids. She never stopped teaching.”

Establishing a scholarship

Glenna was an educator through and through. 

She loved teaching and even received the Teacher of the Year award in the mid-1990s — an honor that didn’t surprise her fellow teachers or family members. Her impact was widespread, and yet she never received an academic scholarship and “didn’t get the best grade in children’s literature,” Angie explained.

Angie McCoy, director of the Newman University MBA program
Angie McCoy, director of the Newman University MBA program

“But she was phenomenal at spreading children’s literature in her classes where she taught kindergarten, preschool, second grade and under,” Angie said.

John and Angie chose not to tie a GPA requirement into the scholarship for Weir Education Award.

“GPA doesn’t define you as a teacher and it doesn’t really define you as a student,” Angie said. “If you graduate, you can go out and make all kinds of differences. We didn’t want to tie it to a GPA because we’re not so sure mom would’ve gotten through if her career was tied to a GPA.”

When Angie started her job at Newman, Sister Charlotte Rohrbach, ASC, said she remembered Angie from when she was just a child, running down the hallways of Sacred Heart Hall after Mass.

Newman has always been a part of our life,” Angie said. “I think it’s very special that we can continue our mother’s legacy here. I can see a tangible piece of my mom in the students here. I really do believe in our mission to send them out to transform society, and what better way to do that than through education?”

"It’s nice to know that my mom’s legacy is helping students make a difference in this world." - Angie McCoy on her mother, Glenna Weir

Angie is convinced that student recipients of the scholarship will have an impact on future students just as her mother did on thousands of her own students over the years.

“It’s nice to know that my mom’s legacy is helping them achieve that and the difference they’re going to be able to make in this world,” Angie said.

Through the Weir Education Award, current students at Newman University directly benefit and are inspired by Glenna’s impact. At a recent scholarship luncheon, donors like the Weir family met scholarship recipients face to face.

Allie Johnson, a sophomore education major, has always wanted to be a teacher. Access to scholarships like the Weir Education Award at Newman makes that dream more attainable.

“I’ve had so many special impacts growing up from my teachers,” Johnson said. “So knowing that Mrs. Weir made an impact on her students, I strive to make that same kind of impact, especially in a kindergarten classroom where I want to teach.”

Knowing that Mrs. Weir made an impact on her students, I strive to make that same kind of impact, especially in a kindergarten classroom where I want to teach.

Allie Johnson, education major

John and Angie have received several thank you notes from student recipients of the Weir Education Award, which has been “beyond special.”

“The majority of the students who have received her scholarship are located in western Kansas and are very grateful for the help,” Angie said. “Everybody needs a helping hand in life. And if we’re able to provide that for somebody at a point in life when they need it, hopefully in the future they’ll pay it back as well.”

Students and donors connect during the annual Scholarship Luncheon at Newman.
Students and donors connect during the annual Scholarship Luncheon at Newman.

Fond and lasting memories

One of Glenna’s many talents, John explained, “was making students enjoy school.”

Angie recalls a humorous story from her mother’s time as a preschool teacher.

“It was the year that she got the hearing aids. She called her students her ‘little quacking ducks.’ She would look down and they were all around her just chattering loudly and excitedly. We always asked her, ‘How do you handle all those little kids and all those little voices?’”

The answer?

“She’d just turn down her hearing aids,” Angie said with a laugh. “So the kids loved her, but their little chirping voices didn’t phase her.”

When Father John Jirak was assigned to Blessed Sacrament, he loved going to recess with Glenna’s kindergarten class. In preparation for their playground adventures, he always wore a pair of tennis shoes. So it came as no surprise when Jirak showed up to Glenna’s end-of-life rosary wearing tennis shoes — a nod to those joyful days.

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (Courtesy photo)
Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (Courtesy photo)

Twenty and 30 years later, students of Weir still recall the warm hugs she gave at the start and end of class. She had a knack for remembering past students’ names, too — even up until the day she died.

Glenna was a loving teacher, grandmother, mother and wife, and for the Weir family, “It’s a blessing to share her memory with others.” 

Create an endowment or scholarship

Generation after generation, endowment and scholarship funds ensure that students have the capability and resources to reach their full potential and “transform society.”