Franklin & Marshall College Trustee Colleen Ross Weis ’85 believes that F&M has had the greatest influence in shaping her career and the person she has become. With her husband, Martin Laiks, she wants to help make sure students feel the same way for generations to come.
The couple’s recent $1.25 million gift has funded the Colleen Ross Weis ’85 and Martin Laiks Cinema in the Susan & Benjamin Winter Visual Arts Center, for which the College broke ground in late March on the southern end of campus. The 1,075-square foot cinema will seat 84 people, providing an interdisciplinary space that will host guest lectures, special events, film festivals, student film events and smaller musical and other performances.
“Colleen Weis is a loyal alumna, trustee, friend and inspiration to so many in our community, and with her husband, Marty Laiks, helps animate the very idea of liberal arts education,” F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield said. “The cinema will be a cutting-edge creative home for our students and faculty, a magnet for creators of all types. We will be able to host premier lectures, shows and events like never before. Colleen and Marty have deepened the Weis legacy at the College by creating a space that has transformational value for F&M, our students and society.”
Weis earned her master of arts degree in the history of decorative arts from Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Parsons School of Design. She worked as a specialist in 20th-century decorative arts at Christie’s for nearly 10 years, and currently runs her own advisory and consultancy in New York City. Laiks is chief executive officer of Truth Digital, a strategic communications firm in New York City. He began his career as a screenwriter, working for Walt Disney, Columbia Pictures and Castle Rock Entertainment.
“I’m excited that this state-of-the-art cinema will be used across the entire community, from students and faculty to Lancaster residents,” Weis said. “It will be a beautiful and versatile space worthy of the gorgeous new visual arts center, and will be enjoyed by students of every major. The opportunity for programs that showcase the talent of student filmmakers at F&M, along with industry professionals, also inspires us. In fact, the visual arts center and the cinema resonated so strongly with me and my husband in large part because of our passion for and careers in the fine and decorative arts, as well as film.”
Funding for the $28 million visual arts center began in 2016 with a $10 million gift from Susan and Trustee Ben Winter ’67—the single largest from an alumnus in F&M’s history. The center is scheduled to open in fall 2019.
The cinema is the latest chapter of the Weis family legacy at F&M. Colleen’s parents, Trustee Emerita Patricia G. Ross Weis and the late Robert F. Weis, made possible the construction of Weis Hall in 1988 and its transformation into Weis College House in 2011. In 2001, the couple endowed The Robert F. and Patricia G. Ross Weis Professorship in Judaic Studies. Colleen joined the Board of Trustees in 2005.
“I have an enduring love for F&M. It’s my second home, a place where I discovered the ideas and interests that shaped my life,” Colleen Weis said. “F&M provides a transformative experience for every student, and it’s incredibly rewarding for me to watch them turn their passions into action with the help of a committed and caring faculty and staff. It’s thrilling to watch F&M continue to innovate and lead, not just on campus but on the national stage. I’m incredibly proud of my alma mater and, as a trustee, dedicated to continue helping in any way I can.”
Colleen and Martin live in New York City with their daughters, Allison and Lara.