It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Vivian Weil, one of UIC’s first Philosophy Ph.D.’s. Vivian embodied the pioneering spirit of the department. She joined the Ph.D. program at a time when few women were seeking graduate degrees in philosophy. Indeed, she was a “non-traditional” student, taking up her graduate studies after many years spent concentrating on family. Throughout her time in the program and her long and immensely successful career she managed to maintain an enviable and inspiring balance between her academic work, family, and friends.
At UIC Vivian studied action theory with Irving Thalberg, and later became one of the generous donors endowing a lecture series in his name. After graduating she joined the IIT faculty where she remained for 44 years. She was a founding member and director of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, and worked on issues of professional ethics and responsibility, focusing especially on science and engineering. She was a founder of this field, and developed one of the first engineering ethics courses taught in the United States.
Vivian was a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Science, on the Governing Board of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics, the Executive Committee of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, and a former member of the Committee on Computer Use in Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association. Most recently, Vivian received the Sterling Olmsted Award from the American Society of Engineering Education in 2013 recognizing her contributions to the development and teaching of ethics in engineering education.
Vivian’s life was celebrated in a memorial service on June 10th at the Alice Millar Chapel on Northwestern University’s campus. Moving tributes from her family, friends of long standing, junior colleagues she has mentored, and Nancy Cartwright, a fellow Ph.D. student and life-long friend emphasized her formidable intellect, sense of justice, kindness, and generosity, as well as the high style that characterized her activities in all spheres, and her sense of fun. Those who spoke painted a picture of a full and productive life. Vivian will be remembered with great fondness by, among many others, those of us who had the good fortune to interact with her throughout her ongoing association with the UIC Philosophy Department. She will be missed.