In celebration of Jewish-American Heritage Month, The Stark Center would like to recognize Joe Weider, the man who made bodybuilding part of global culture. Born in Montreal, Canada, Weider began his athletic career as a competitive weightlifter and, during his lifetime, he led weight training from the closets and primitive gyms of the first half of the 20th century into elegant spas, varsity training rooms, and popular culture. He published his first magazine, Your Physique, in 1940 at the age of 17 with only a few dollars in his pocket. Joe went on to launch many other magazines, including Muscle Power, Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Shape, and Men’s Fitness. He also had a successful food supplement business and, with his brother, Ben, he founded the International Federation of Bodybuilders. Together, Ben and Joe built the International Federation of Bodybuilders into one of the largest sport federations in the world.
One of the most important gifts ever received by the Stark Center was the first $1M gift pledged by Joe and Betty Weider in 2004, a gift that arrived before the Stark Center became a reality. The Weider’s initial gift had a great impact on how the Todd-McLean Collection was viewed by on-campus administrators and was a major factor in the university’s decision to support the building of the Stark Center. The Joe Weider Foundation made a second million-dollar gift in 2008 to assist with operations when the Center opened. Together, these two gifts resulted in the University’s decision to designate our physical culture galleries as The Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture in their honor.
The Weider Family has donated more than just funds, contributing more than 20 important pieces of art and other memorabilia from their personal collections including eight large oil paintings of Mr. Olympia winners by the noted artist Thomas Beecham; the large oil portrait of Sandow as a gladiator painted by Aubrey Hunt in the early 1890s; a number of significant bronze statues; books and memorabilia from Joe’s office, and a beautiful bronze of Betty Weider by sculptor Frederick Russell.
Eric Weider, son of IFBB Founder Ben Weider, played an important role in both gifts as head of the Joe Weider Foundation. He also donated to the Center a number of important artifacts that belonged to his father including the Louis Cyr Dumbbell, an original oil painting of Cyr, and an 1890s-era exercise bicycle.
Additional donations may be made to the endowment created by the Weiders that helps support the Stark Center. Simply request when donating on-line that the funds be directed to the “Weider Physical Culture Fund.”
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