Bernard Weissbourd

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Bernard (Barney) Weissbourd SB'41, JD'48, a researcher, attorney, and developer, died November 2, 2000 in Evanston, IL. He was 78.

He is survived by his wife, Bernice Weissbourd, a daughter, Ruth Weissbourd Grant, three sons, including Robert M. Weissbourd, Burt Weissbourd and Rick Weissbourd.[1]


Bernard Weissbourd was a graduate and valedictorian of Senn High School. He entered the University of Chicago on a full scholarship at the age of fifteen; he earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry and was invited by Chancellor Robert Hutchins to attend the University of Chicago Law School on a full scholarship; Mr. Weissbourd excelled in law school, and also served as editor of the law review.

University of Chicago

Weissbourd enjoyed a life-long connection with the University of Chicago, beginning at age 15 when he received a full scholarship to attend the College. In these first years, Weissbourd was captivated by the University's intellectual life, his concentration in chemistry, and especially his study of the classics, a staple of the curriculum in the Hutchins era. When he graduated in 1941, he entered the law school. WWII interrupted his studies, but he remained at the University, having been assigned to work on the Manhattan Project, where he contributed to the discovery of an element. At the war's end, he returned to the law school and became an editor of the Law Review before graduating in 1948. He served the University as an active member of the Board of Trustees and as Trustee Emeritus until his death in 2000[2].

Army/Manhattan Project

Bernard Weissbourd entered the United States Army during his first year of law school. The United States was involved in World War II when Mr. Weissbourd received a note asking him to return to Chicago where a professor who had taught Mr. Weissbourd had recommended him for a part in the Manhattan Project; during his involvement he invented new equipment for the detection of elements and participated in the discovery of plutonium.

Back to Law School/legal career

Bernard Weissbourd returned to law school after his service ended, where he graduated at the top of his class; from 1948 to 1959 he served as a partner in the Antonow and Weissbourd law firm[3].

Real estate

Weissbourg was asked to take over Herb Greenwald's real estate development company, which he renamed Metropolitan Structures. The firm developed many of Chicago's famous buildings, including One Illinois Center, the Essex Inn, the Hyatt Regency Chicago, the Mercantile Exchange Center, and Buckingham Plaza, as well as Nuns Island in Montreal.

Under his leadership, Metropolitan Structures became the nation's largest commercial real-estate firm[4].

In 1971, his company had $3.5 billion of work in progress, most of it notable for design quality. Included were new towns near Aurora, Ill., and Montreal, redevelopment in downtown Baltimore and a billion-dollar apartment-office-store complex near Chicago's Loop[5].

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

As at April 1984, Bernard Weissbourd served on the Board of Directors for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists journal.[6]

Harold Washington Transition Committee

In 1983, Bernard Weissbourd, Chairman, Metropolitan Structures served on the incoming Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's transition oversight Committee.[7]

Political influence

Bernard Weissbourd campaigned for Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, wrote position papers for President Jimmy Carter and presidential candidate Walter Mondale, and held SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) meetings in his backyard[8].

Family Focus and more

Together with his wife Bernice Weissbourd and Irving Harris he co-founded Family Focus, a community-based, family support program. He also founded the Center for Psycho-Social Studies, now the Center for Transcultural Studies, an international center dedicated to cross-cultural understanding[9].