President of Northwestern University hosts dinner of Russian Culture

Aleksandra Efimova and Morton Shapiro Aleksandra Efimova with Irwin Weil

Northwestern University President Morton Shapiro hosted a dinner at his home on Jan. 29 honoring Professor Irwin Weil, one of the most preeminent leaders in teaching and promoting understanding of Russian culture.

The private event included several prominent Russian Americans, as well as members of the Lyric Opera, WFMT radio station, Northwestern faculty members, business people and others who have an interest in Russian culture.

Born in Cincinnati, OH, in 1928, Mr. Weil has devoted his life to improving the relations between the United States and Russia. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1948 and his PhD from Harvard University, he first taught at Brandeis University before transferring to Northwestern in 1966. During his tenure at Northwestern, Weil became famous for developing the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, and his courses on Russian music and literature are among the most popular at the university.

In class, he is often known to break out into song, believing that students can understand the meaning of Russian poetry better when it is set to music. He has also worked closely with Natalia Lyashenko, of the Northwestern University Music School, to develop a unique course that encourages students to study and perform Russian operas as a way of deepening their understanding of Russian culture.

Mr. Weil is so knowledgeable about Russian operas, in fact, that Steve Robinson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of WFMT, announced at the event that the station is planning to air a new radio program featuring Mr. Weil, where he will discuss Russian culture.

As someone who is passionate about promoting Russian music, arts and culture in the United States, I am deeply grateful to Mr. Weil for his enthusiasm and tireless efforts to introduce Americans to Russia’s great artists.

At the event on Tuesday night, it was wonderful to see Mr. Weil perform selections from the opera Eugene Onegin ― even at the age of 85!

Alena Tsimis, Managing Director at I Imagine, was also impressed by Mr. Weil’s performance, as well as his accomplishments.

“Professor Weil is one of the most respected and inspirational educators of Slavic literature and music, who, like no one else, is able to evoke interest and appreciation for Russian culture,” she said. “It was an honor and a great pleasure to listen firsthand to the professor's recital of Eugene Onegin in a warm home atmosphere of Morton and Mimi Shapiro.”

I, too, loved the event and feel proud that so many people are passionate about Russian culture and are helping to make Americans even more aware of Russia’s rich history.