The Weidner Foundation was established by John Weidner and his wife, Naomi, in 1994 and was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Massachusetts in 1996. Originally centered at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts, the Foundation served primarily as an archive of documents, artifacts, and materials related to the Dutch-Paris Line. In the Foundation’s first year, Bert Beach served as Executive Director. Between 1997 and 2018, vital leadership was also provided by Kurt Ganter and Lawrence Geraty in the roles of director and chair. Historian Alberto Sbacchi was the first president of the Foundation and served as curator of the Weidner Collection. He conducted extensive research in Europe and the United States with the goal of writing a scholarly biography of Weidner.
After Professor Sbacchi’s untimely death in 2006, the Board commissioned historian Megan Koreman to continue Dr. Sbacchi’s work and write a book not only about Weidner but about the Dutch-Paris Line in its entirety. After years of research, made possible through Foundation funding and with exclusive access to the Weidner Collection, Professor Koreman’s book, The Escape Line, was published in 2018 by Oxford University Press. The book was also published in Dutch under the title Gewone Helden.
Since January 2013, the Weidner Collection has been housed with the European Collections of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Since January 2019, the Weidner Collection has been opened to the public for historical research. The Weidner Foundation retains the intellectual property rights and copyrights to the Weidner Collection.
Another milestone for the Foundation occurred in April 2020 with the inaugural publication in a new series by Weidner Foundation Books. Beginning in 2005, Janet Holmes Carper of Cornish, Maine, had served as a volunteer translator for the Foundation, painstakingly interpreting a remarkable number of documents in the Collection. In the course of her translation work, Janet conceived and proposed to the Foundation’s then Executive Director, Kurt Ganter, the idea of a book of Weidner family correspondence. The original manuscript of The Weidners in Wartime was completed by Janet in April of 2010 but not published for nearly 10 years.
In July 2020, the Foundation also published the autobiography of “Engelandvaarder” Pieter Rudolph Zeeman, Luck Through Adversity: The Memoir of a Dutchman’s Flight to Freedom Through the Dutch-Paris Escape Line of World War II.
In addition to preserving the history and memory of John Weidner and the Dutch-Paris Line, the Foundation aims to support persons engaged in altruistic actions in the present, and particularly college and university students. In 2006, Foundation board member and sociology professor William Ervin helped to create the first Weidner Chapter at Butler University in Indiana. In partnership with the Indianapolis Downtown Rotary Club, the Chapter provides scholarship awards to deserving Butler students. The Foundation also offers research grants to college and university students conducting research using the Weidner Collection.
In 2018, Tanja Magas was appointed Board Chair and Ronald Osborn was appointed Executive Director of the Foundation. The Foundation is committed to continuing to find creative ways to share Weidner’s story and to advance our mission of “cultivating selfless and courageous action in the spirit of John Weidner and the Dutch-Paris Line.”
Our Officers and Board of Directors
William Ervin (Secretary)
Brent G.T. Geraty
Lawrence Geraty, Ph.D (Chair Emeritus)
Tanja Magas (Chair)
Frank Mazzaglia, Ed.D (Agent)
Stephen F. Morgan (Treasurer)
Ronald Osborn, Ph.D (Executive Director)
Ali Sahabi (President)
Our Advisory Council
Bert B. Beach, Ph.D (Chairman Emeritus)
Reinder Bruinsma, Ph.D
Eva Fogelman, Ph.D
Lourdes Gudmundsson, Ph.D
Edward Lugenbeal, Ph.D
Bob Moore, Ph.D
Ronnie Swartz, Ph.D
Pieter Rudolph Zeeman