Over 89 years, Hank Weaver has visited more than 100 countries. He’s been to each continent, including Antarctica. He’s traveled for business and pleasure, for long-term and short.In 1957, Weaver began working at Goshen College, which opened a whole new world of opportunities. He worked at the college for over 22 years, as a chemistry professor, provost and interim president.
After six years of working as a chemistry professor at Goshen College, Weaver decided to spend a year abroad in Peru through the Ford Foundation. With his family, Weaver moved to Lima where he taught at the oldest university in the Western hemisphere, San Marcos. There, Weaver acted as a consultant for a project that planned to bring science to all students. He also taught a class in physical chemistry.
Weaver returned to Goshen in 1964, after his time in Peru. Although he served as a professor of chemistry at Goshen College, Weaver also worked for the Council of Mennonite Schools. There, he helped Mennonite colleges develop international programs.
Meanwhile, the president of Goshen College at the time, Paul Mininger, was worried about the future of the college. President Mininger made a list of a dozen of the most creative faculty members at Goshen College who were to meet and discuss how to advance the college. Weaver’s name was on the list, along with former faculty and staff members such as Dan Hess, Mario Wenger, John Howard Yoder and Anna Mae Charles.
By the second time that the faculty and staff members of the committee met up, the general idea of Goshen College’s Study-Service Term had been conceived.
“We wanted every student to have a study-service term abroad,” Weaver said. “The major work I did during the next two years was to work with the committee and come up with all of the little details of how we would do it. That was a fun time.”
Weaver and the rest of the committee expected the SST program to continue for the next 15 years. Yet almost half a century later, a unit of students is in Tanzania, with another in Peru. In 2018, the program will be 50 years old.
In 1972, four years after the SST program officially began, the president of Goshen College, Laurence Burkholder, appointed Weaver as provost.
However, Weaver’s new position didn’t prevent him from traveling. During his time as provost, Weaver took long-term trips. He also led one SST unit – a summer term in Poland.
It was 1975, and the Berlin Wall was still up. Goshen College and the University of Warsaw teamed up to give professors and students the experience of living in a very different country – an exchange program was created.
During the service part of their term, many students worked on collective farms. According to Weaver, Poland’s method for agriculture was much different than that in the United States.
When asked what the highlight of his time in Poland, Weaver replied, “The students would say Hortex’s – Hortex was the brand name of the ice cream dispensary in downtown Poland… [but] I think being able to see into the thinking of the operation of a communist country was mind stretching for everybody.”
Overall, Weaver and his family have lived abroad five times. He counted each one on his fingers: “Peru, Spain, Nepal.” He paused to think. “Bulgaria was much later. Poland was another place where we lived with the students.”
After 22 years of teaching and working at Goshen College, Weaver was offered the position of deputy director of the Education Abroad Program at the University of California. Weaver and Mary moved to the West Coast, a short walk from the ocean.
During his time working in Santa Barbara, Weaver traveled to over 30 countries, helping create international programs from each of the nine campuses of University of California.
“I was probably out of the country one third of the time setting up programs,” Weaver said with a smile. “So that was a very enjoyable place.”
Today, Weaver and his wife live at Greencroft Communities, just down the road from two of their daughters. Judy, who is the director of the Academic Success Center at Goshen College, and Sally, who is an associate at Pathways Retreat, as well as a published writer.
Weaver spent countless days, weeks and months traveling abroad. He’s learned numerous lessons while traveling, but there’s one over-arching theme that has tied together each trip he has taken.
“Human interaction and friendship are essential to everybody,” he said. “Every exposure to another culture has the potential to increase our understanding of the values and means of expressing those values of those with a different background, if we let it occur.”