Remembering Naomi Weidner

Naomi Weidner (1923-2020) met John at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, where she worked as a nurse, after he immigrated to the United States in 1955.  Both shared a commitment to caring for the suffering and those in need. Naomi was one of the original founding members of the Weidner Foundation and served loyally and generously on our board for nearly 25 years. When her health made it difficult for her to participate in board meetings, she nevertheless continued to actively support the Foundation’s work of her own initiative from afar. An officer from the Foundation visited Naomi in 2019 while she was still living in her home in Monterey Park, California, to deliver flowers and express the Foundation’s gratitude to her for her many years of dedicated service. To Naomi, the Foundation’s work was an extension of John’s work and also a way of putting her faith into practical action. Naomi was a personal friend to several of our current board members, who were with her from the Foundation’s earliest beginnings and who grieve her loss. The existence of the Weidner Foundation is a testament not only to John Weidner’s life but also to Naomi’s life and her spirit of selflessness.

Naomi Weidner (center) together with a fellow original founding board member, Larry Geraty (right), and Gillian Geraty (left).

Our Officers and Board of Directors

Elaine Bedel was appointed by Governor Holcomb in 2019 to serve as the first Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC), a quasi-government agency focused on making Indiana a great place to live and visit and to learn and earn. Prior to her recent appointment, Bedel served as President of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the state’s lead economic development agency from 2017-2019. Under Bedel’s leadership, the state had consecutive record-breaking years for new job commitments. Prior to serving the state, Bedel served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Bedel Financial Consulting Inc., a role held since she founded the company in 1989. Bedel, who resides in Indianapolis, is an author of a personal finance book and has spoken nationally and internationally sharing her interpersonal and financial expertise and experience. Bedel earned a bachelor’s degree from Hanover College and an MBA from Butler University. Throughout her career, Bedel has been recognized for dedication to her profession and her community. She was inducted into the Indiana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016 and was recognized as the 2015 Women Business Owner of the year by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Bedel was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame by the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana and received the Financial Planning Association’s “Heart of Financial Planning” Award in 2013.

Glenn Coe is a retired attorney living in Orlando, FL. While a student in the University of CT law school, he served as the first Director of Judicial Education and edited Benchbooks for all State trial court judges. He was the Chief Trial Attorney in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney prosecuting governmental corruption and organized crime cases investigated by state judicial grand juries. In private practice he was involved in, inter alia, successful civil lawsuits against the Boston FBI for suborning perjury that led to wrongful convictions for murder, large fire loss case in computer chip manufacturing plant in Taiwan, charter airplane crash cases, and various commercial litigation matters. He also served as President of the Hartford County Bar Association, the oldest continuously functioning bar association in the country.  Glenn created in 2017 the Foundation for the Islands of Old Providence and Santa Catalina, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is now involved in raising hurricane relief funds for these two western Caribbean islands that were virtually destroyed by category 5 Hurricane Iota on November 16, 2021. Glenn has been on the Board of the John Henry Weidner Foundation for Altruism since 2011. In his retirement, Glenn enjoys sailing and golfing where he has come close to shooting his age.

William Ervin. I was raised in Terre Haute, Indiana and entered Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana in 1957  I graduated with a B.S. in Business in 1961 and a law degree in 1964, the year I was admitted to the Bar.  In 1961 I won the Intercollegiate Three Cushion Billiard Championship at Kansas State, University. In 1964 I was employed by the FBI and served in Louisiana, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Indianapolis, Indiana. In Honolulu my territorial responsibility as Agent In Charge included Hawaii, the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands, The Palau Islands, Guam and the Mariana Islands. In Indiana my responsibility was the state of Indiana. In 1987 with three others I cofounded a World War II Roundtable which has met every month for the past 34 years. In 1990, I retired from the FBI and was employed by Dean Witter and in 1994 I cofounded a documentary production company. From 1998 to 2006 I was an adjunct professor teaching two law classes at Butler University. I have been a Rotarian for 40 years and have been on Salvation Army Advisory Board since 1992. I am married with two adult children and two grandchildren.

Kurt Ganter retired from AdventHealth Healthcare Corporation in 2000 having served as the Vice-President for Human Resources at AdventHealth’s corporate office in Winter Park, Florida. Prior to his work at AdventHealth, he served as the Chief Operating Officer at Simi Valley Adventist Hospital in California, as Chief Operating Officer at Fuller Memorial Hospital in Massachusetts and as the hospital president at Parkview Memorial Hospital in Brunswick, Maine. After leaving AdventHealth, Ganter established Coveside H.R. Management serving Maine industries. At the same time, he provided HR consultation for the Southeast Asia-Pacific hospitals and clinics for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This consulting led to the establishment of Accent Healthcare, a hospital and clinic management company headquartered in the Philippines. Prior to his work in healthcare, Ganter was an Assistant Professor of English at Atlantic Union College. He received a Masters degree in English from Andrews University in 1967 and an Ed.D in English Education from Boston University in 1978. He became certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) in 2016. Ganter joined the John Henry Weidner Foundation board of directors in 2001 and served as the foundation’s Executive Director from 2002 to 2014. He has been active in community volunteer work serving the Boy’s and Girl’s Club in California and Habitat for Humanity in Maine.

Brent G.T. Geraty (Secretary) completed his undergraduate studies in history and business administration at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts, where one of his mentors was Dr. Alberto Sbacchi—the Weidner Foundation’s first President. Brent earned his master’s degree in history from Andrews University in Michigan. He received his juris doctorate from Yale Law School, where he was a Coker Fellow and an articles editor for the Yale Law & Policy Review. After cutting his teeth as a law firm litigator for six years, Geraty spent the last 15 years serving as general counsel back at Andrews University. He was the first person hired into that role, and he established the Office of General Counsel within a context of cultural and ethnic diversity. He also held an academic appointment at Andrews teaching pre-law classes and serving as a pre-law advisor. Brent Geraty joined the University of Redlands in California in 2015 as its first internal general counsel, a member of the President’s Cabinet and reporting to the President.

Lawrence (Larry) T. Geraty is the retired President Emeritus of La Sierra University (1993-2007) though he has continued to serve the institution on a part-time basis as its Foundation Board Executive Director.  A long time friend of John and Naomi Weidner, he helped to organize the Weidner Foundation Board and served for several years as President.  After receiving his PhD in Syro-Palestinian Archaeology at Harvard in 1972 (during which time he received a Fulbright Fellowship to Israel where he dug), he taught at Andrews University for several years, founding its Institute of Archaeology and leading its archaeological excavations in Jordan.  From 2002-2006 he served as the president of ASOR (now the American Society of Research headquartered in Alexandria, VA), the premier professional society for American archaeologists working in the Middle East.  In addition to his educational administration, research, publishing, and teaching in the field of archaeology and the Bible, he has been active through the years in civic organizations in Michigan, Massachusetts, and California which have worked for the betterment of society.

Tanja Magas (Board Chair) was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. She grew up in Austria and Germany as a refugee during the civil war in the Balkans and hence feels a strong personal connection to the Weidner story. An ASSIST Foundation scholarship brought Tanja to the United States at the age of 16. She holds a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Columbia University, an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School, and an MA in International Relations from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. She has over a decade of experience in the financial services industry, having worked between New York, London and Dubai. In her free time, Tanja enjoys boxing, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and traveling (having lived in 7 and visited 62 countries to date).

Francis (Frank) R. Mazzaglia describes his long friendship with John Weidner as one of his most treasured experiences. While serving as Consulting Executive Assistant to President Larry Geraty at Atlantic Union College, he guided John and Naomi Weidner to their many stops—ranging from a visit to Massachusetts Governor William Weld to a packed room of starry-eyed elementary school children—during the College’s Humanities Week where Weidner was honored. Frank has been involved with the Weidner Foundation from its beginning as a Board Member and as interim Executive Director. He holds five academic degrees including the BSBA from Boston College, the Master of Communications from Boston State College, the Executive MBA from Suffolk University and both the Master’s and Doctorate in Administration, Planning and Policy from Harvard. A columnist for some 50 newspapers, he is President of the National Council of Italian American Alliances, a social justice organization, and has been honored by the Pirandello Lyceum as “The Best In Mind and Spirit”, as well as the Sons and Daughters of Italy, and the National Association of Italian American Police Officers.

Stephen F. Morgan (Treasurer)
Baltimore, Maryland

Ronald E. Osborn (Executive Director) is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Philosophy at La Sierra University.  He has served on the Weidner Foundation’s board since 2017 but first worked for the Weidner Foundation between 1994 and 1997, helping to catalogue Weidner Collection materials as a history major and student assistant to Dr. Alberto Sbacchi (the Foundation’s first President) at Atlantic Union College. He was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Wellesley College, and a Fulbright Scholar to Burma/Myanmar.  He has taught courses in the Department of International Relations at the University of Southern California (where he earned his PhD as a Bannerman Fellow in the Program in Politics and International Relations in 2012), in the Honors Program at UCLA, in the Peace and Justice Studies Program at Wellesley College, and in the Peace Studies Program at Chapman University.  He is the author of several books, including Humanism and the Death of God: Searching for the Good After Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Ali Sahabi (President) is a lifelong advocate for resilient and sustainable communities. He has spent his career promoting the safety, economy and quality of life of communities throughout California. His work has been honored with the California Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for taking a sustainable approach toward community development and environmental restoration in the Dos Lagos mixed-use development in the City of Corona. As Chief Operating Officer of Optimum Seismic, Inc., one of California’s leading seismic retrofit companies, he leads an experienced team that has been making cities safer since 1984 by performing earthquake engineering to achieve earthquake resistant buildings. His company performs full-service seismic retrofit engineering and construction services on multifamily, residential, commercial and industrial buildings throughout the state. Sahabi also serves as President of Optimum Group, LLC. Sahabi earned a Master of Real Estate Development degree from the School of Urban Planning and Development at the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Pepperdine University. Widely known for his philanthropic efforts, he supports a broad range of causes. He generously endowed the University of California, Riverside’s Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, and continues to support numerous other causes to help people and communities. The immediate past president of the Building Industry Association, Baldy View Chapter, Sahabi has extensive involvement in multiple professional, civic and nonprofit organizations including the California Apartment Association, California Building Officials, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles County Business Federation, and U.S. Resiliency Council.

Astrid E. Wendth teaches Honors American Literature and A.P. English Language & Composition at West Boylston High School in Massachusetts. A fourth-generation graduate of Atlantic Union College, Astrid saw the establishment of the Weidner Foundation on AUC’s campus—her father was the Foundation’s first director, and both parents board members—before earning degrees in English and History. Astrid has been on the Weidner Board since 2018. She holds an MA in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts, where her research focused on film and cultural studies: her thesis examines film noir and its influence on animation and theme park design at the start of the post-war era. In addition to teaching and writing, Astrid enjoys working with veterans of foreign wars, and designing curriculum and interactive experiences for educational institutions and historic sites. She is a member of the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen and the Themed Entertainment Association.