IFES Remembers Board Secretary Leon J. Weil
WASHINGTON — The Board of Directors and staff of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) are saddened by the death of The Honorable Leon J. Weil. Weil joined IFES’ Board of Directors in 1994, and served as its Secretary from the late 1990s until his death.
“It was always a pleasure to work with Lee. Since he had extensive international experience and was an official elections observer in countries around the world, Lee deeply understood the importance of our mission and always offered excellent suggestions to help us meet our goals. He was an incredibly kind individual who will be greatly missed,” said Bill Sweeney, IFES President and CEO.
Weil, a World War II Navy veteran and Princeton University graduate, died in Potomac, Maryland, on October 4, 2011.
He was associated with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, a full-service financial services firm, based in New York. A brilliant financier, he was previously partner and senior executive with Wall Street firms. He served as an Exchange Official on the American Stock Exchange and on various committees of both the New York Stock Exchange and the Securities Industry Association.
Weil’s vast international experience included serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Nepal (1984-87) and being a special consultant to the United Nations Development Programme. He was an official international election observer in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America. He also served as governor of the Foreign Policy Association; a director and trustee of the Council of American Ambassadors, and on National Committee on American Foreign Policy. In addition, he developed capital market systems in Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Armenia.
"Ambassador Weil brought a high level of experience, wisdom and enthusiasm to the wide range of democracy projects around the world," said IFES Board Chairman Peter Kelly. "His experience in Southeast Asia was a font of knowledge for our board and staff throughout his tenure on the Board of IFES."
Among his many other accomplishments, Weil was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in 1981 and served on the Board of Directors of Outward Bound USA, in which positions he was an effective advocate by example for physical fitness. He also served on the boards of the Media Research Center, Parent’s Television Council, The Fund for American Studies and the American Himalayan Foundation. He was trustee emeritus of the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts.
Weil was a protegee of National Review founder and editor William F. Buckley Jr. and his brother, James L. Buckley, a U.S. Senator from New York and Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Through them, he met F. Clifton White, who conceived IFES as an elections technical assistance organization supported by the enactment of the National Endowment for Democracy Act.
“For the past 27 years, Lee Weil provided leadership and counsel to IFES and was someone that you could always count on to be a positive part of the Foundation’s efforts throughout the world,” said Bill Hybl, IFES Board Vice Chairman.
Weil was closely involved with IFES before joining its Board of Directors. Drawing on his experience in Nepal, he helped build IFES’ program in Nepal in 1990 and promoted the organization throughout the world, particularly in the countries of post-Soviet Central Asia.
"Lee Weil was passionate about IFES and about guaranteeing the right of people to freely choose their leaders at the ballot box," said former IFES President Richard W. Soudriette. "As human being, Lee was always a gentleman and he possessed the rare combination of compassion, vision and humility. Lee had the unique ability to effectively communicate with people from the humblest of origins to the president of the country."
"He was also a particularly kind and thoughtful person who took friendship to mean that you were obliged to advise and counsel those who sought it as to how to improve their lives and help others improve theirs," added Randal Teague, IFES legal counsel, who met Weil and his wife through White during Sen. Buckley's 1970 campaign.
Weil is survived by three children and seven grandchildren. Mabel, his wife of 59 years, died at home on March 19, 2011, at the age of 80.