From aid transports to Chernobyl to a Japanese fashion show – Roland Weigand, as the president's personal assistant, never gets bored. A portrait of the man who has been with FHWS for 45 years.
Roland Weigand doesn't look like he's about to retire. His gait is brisk, he speaks of his work with an enthusiasm that few can muster after 45 years in the same job. There are two hearts beating in him: one looks forward to a protracted breakfast in the morning, to bike rides whenever he likes. The other will bemoan the loss of his daily work as personal assistant to the FHWS president. What is it about his job that the 65-year-old likes so much? "The variety," the answer comes like a shot. Weigand has organised aid shipments to Chernobyl, a Japanese fashion show, a sheepdog as a gift for the 65th birthday of an honorary senator who had tragically lost his two sheepdogs. He prepares the guest list and seating arrangements for upcoming events, organises the musical accompaniment and the catering. His office is the place to go for anyone who isn’t getting anywhere elsewhere.
He has supported three presidents at FHWS
Weigand studied general internal administration at the civil service college in Hof. He started in the Department of Student Affairs at FHWS at the age of 20, and became the personal assistant to the then president Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Fechner two years later. When he meets up with former fellow students at the monthly regulars' table, Weigand is always grateful for how varied his job is: "If I compare myself to my fellow students at the time, I must say, I’ve got it great. I have a job that is never boring." Is there anything about his job that he doesn't enjoy? "Writing minutes," the answer follows promptly.
When Weigand started as a personal assistant in 1978, FHWS had about 2,600 students; now it has more than 9,000. "We were a small, family business, everyone knew everyone," he recalls. He has supported three presidents, which is unusual as many presidents bring their own staff. "I worked for Prof. Dr. Fechner for more than 20 years, then Prof. Dr. Heribert Weber came along and said 'Let's try it together'. We tried it and it worked." In a very short time, they developed a relationship of trust that went far beyond official matters. It was the same with Prof. Dr. Robert Grebner, says Weigand. Weigand is still on friendly terms with the former chancellor of FHWS, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Herzog. He seems to feel this way quite often, with people – and just as much with animals.
Committed to the Röntgen Board of Trustees and the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals
The walls of his study at Sanderring 8 reveal what occupies Weigand's private life: a poster from the Röntgen Board of Trustees hangs next to a multitude of pictures of two dogs and three Burmese cats. "These are my animal friends," he says, his brown eyes growing nostalgic as he talks about the dogs Butch and Nele, both of whom came from the Würzburg Animal Shelter. Butch the Rottweiler was considered unadoptable and they were considering putting the biting dog to sleep. "There are things you can't explain," Weigand says. "We saw each other and it worked. He was the most amazing dog you could ever imagine." Butch is the reason he became involved with the SPCA as a board member for several years. It was a similar story with the livestock guardian dog Nele; she was supposed to be put to sleep because of epilepsy, but the vet refused and she was put up for adoption: "We saw each other, she put her head down by me and never left." By now, only one of his Burmese cats is still alive.
On weekends, he gives guided tours at the Röntgen Memorial Site
In his private life, Weigand plays tennis at least twice a week and also enjoys swimming and cycling. The fact that he spends a lot of time outdoors is obvious from the man with the greying hair and the tanned face. On weekends, however, he is often at the Röntgen Memorial Site. He is a member of the board on the Röntgen Board of Trustees and gives up to 80 guided tours every year. The memorial site has been open since 1986 to commemorate Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. Weigand gives the tours with the same enthusiasm with which he approaches his job. He presents X-ray experiments to the visitors, lets them listen to the only interview the introverted physicist ever gave and knows an incredible amount of details about the researcher. He begins his talks with the question: who has never come into contact with X-rays? This goes down well with visitors, Dietbert Hahn, Chairman of the Röntgen Board of Trustees and former radiologist, knows: “We get feedback all the time from people saying we really want to have a tour with Mr Weigand because he does it so well." Weigand is the "good soul" on the board of trustees, he says, and has acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge about X-rays.
Vast knowledge, many years of experience
The people around Weigand like to draw on this knowledge. Miriam Knorr-Kerler, secretary to the president, also thinks: "His vast knowledge and many years of experience make working in the president's office so much easier. The long-standing collegial relationship makes it easier to work together; there are few colleagues who I have worked with for so long." When the then 20-year-old started at FHWS on 1 November 1976, there was no Department of Public Affairs and Communications, no International Office. Weigand personally looked after foreign guests: "FHWS was the first university of applied sciences to pursue partnerships across the Iron Curtain. We had a partnership in Pécs, in Hungary. The contact still exists today. We organised an art exhibition there and travelled there by bus. That was quite an uncomfortable feeling, standing at the border guarded by machine guns.".
He has even campaigned for FHWS: when the new building on Sanderheinrichsleitenweg was going to be prevented by the "Alandsgrund" citizens' initiative, he spent weeks promoting the building from an information stand on the market square. He was successful: over 70 percent of the residents voted in favour of the new building. FHWS set up a marquee at the construction site to celebrate the ground-breaking, but there was still hostility from some residents. "The marquee had to be put up a day before and there we were afraid that some 'objectors' would take it down at night. So I spent the night there in the tent with my dog and guarded the tent," says Weigand. These are stories that a typical civil servant doesn't experience, he knows that. Hence, he says of himself: "Personal assistant is a nice term – but really you're a jack of all trades."