When major Christian organizations select board members, they usually choose from the ranks of well-known religious figures or influential business people. Ben Weiss was neither. Yet for more than half a century, he served on the boards of a number of important organizations and was sought after by others.
Weiss was “a balance wheel,” explained Hubert Mitchell, a long-time friend who preached Weiss’s funeral sermon in suburban Los Angeles. He was “a behind-the-scenes worker who could always be counted on, not a glory seeker.”
Weiss, 95, died February 20 in Pasadena, California, following a short, flulike illness. A widower since 1949, he had no children.
Gifted with a brilliant mind, Weiss read and traveled widely. A niece recalled that he could carry on articulate discussions with experts on virtually any topic.
The son of devoutly Protestant French immigrants, Weiss graduated in 1921 from the University of Southern California, where he was a pitcher on the baseball team and played guard on the football team. He went into public school teaching and served for many years as principal of Metropolitan High School i Los Angeles, retiring in 1955 to devote his time to Christian work.
Weiss was active in the Evangelical United Brethren Church, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, assorted mission agencies, and other organizations. He founded the National Educators Fellowship (now Christian Educators Association) to promote contacts among Christian teachers in public and private schools.
“Kids loved him,” said Ted Engstrom, head of World Vision United States and former president of Youth for Christ. “He was always being invited to speak at youth meetings.”
Young people sensed Weiss understood them, said Robert A. Cook, retired president of The King’s College in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and also a former president of Youth for Christ. Cook said Weiss was equally at home with the straight church kids of the 1950s and the counterculture Jesus People of the late 1960s.
“He had a gift for soul winning,” said evangelist Billy Graham. Weiss headed counseling and follow-up work at Graham’s landmark 1949 crusade in Los Angeles. Graham assigned Dawson Trotman, who later founded the Navigators, to assist Weiss. Graham said much of Trotman’s subsequent ministry was based on what he learned from Weiss.
Weiss’s close friends remember him best for his commitment to prayer and personal evangelism. “Whether traveling or going out to eat, Ben always prayed first that God would put him next to someone with whom he could share Christ,” said Cook. “He led many, many to Christ.”
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