Alexander Weech Jr., '55

Alexander Weech
When you first came to Princeton what did you think your major would be?

I had no idea. I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I was at an early stage. [NB: These answers are as dictated to Alexander Weech, Jr.'s, son, V. Ashley Weech. At some points his comments appear in the text as editor's comments, and at others he provides the answers on his father's behalf.]

What made you decide to major in Philosophy?

I took a course in philosophy my freshman year which was part of the regular course load. One teacher, James Ward Smith, was very fascinating and made me think of some of life's deeper questions. And it inspired me to want to know more. After that, I made my decision and majored in philosophy.

Are there any stories about your experiences as a Philosophy major at Princeton that you'd like to share?

Professor Walter Terence Stace had a marvelous ability to express the most complex ideas in very easy to understand terms. And I greatly appreciated this (as well as other classmates)... One time, during a precept chaired by Stace with only a few students, I brought to the discussion my ideas of how psychology is relevant to the field of philosophy: how philosophy might relate to the psychological area of separation and individuation dovetailing with Margaret Maher's personality theory. I remember at the end of the discussion when I stood up I said, "Boy! That was really an interesting discussion!" and Stace then said to me, "And you made it that way, Weech!" I then remember floating out of the room being given a compliment from a professor who I admired dearly.

What did you do immediately after leaving Princeton?

[ed. Alexander Weech, Jr.'s, father, Dr. A. Ashley Weech, Sr., was a pioneer pediatrician affiliated with Cincinnati Children's Hospital for 22 years (1941-63), being hired on Pearl Harbor Day in Manhattan at the start of WWII as the University of Cincinnati's 3rd B. K. Rachford Chair of Pediatrics, chief of staff and medical director of Children's Hospital, director of the Children's Hospital Research Foundation, and director of pediatric and contagious diseases in the Cincinnati General Hospital (now University Hospital). 

Though the decision to major in philosophy at Princeton is some evidence that, as a young man, his son (and my father) wanted to set his own course and path in life, my father eventually followed in his father's footsteps by answering the call to serve others in the medical profession. My father entered the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City (1956-59) for his medical degree; a one-year internship at P&S (1960-61) followed. 

In 1961, my father, now Dr. Weech, Jr., returned to Cincinnati, Ohio, and started a three year residency under Dr. Maurice "Maury" Levine, the departmental head of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. In 1963-64, he served at the U.S. Public Health Service Narcotics Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. He worked with Dr. Herb Kleber (later the Executive Vice President and Medical Director at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [CASA] at Columbia University) and Fred Glaser (later the director of the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center, 1989-94, and then Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division on Substance Abuse at the East Carolina University School of Medicine). Only six such hospitals were established in the U.S., making Weech, Kleber, and Glaser U.S. pioneers in addiction prevention and treatment.

My father returned to Cincinnati, continued private practice, and entered into psychoanalytic training (1966-72) with the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute receiving education from Dr. Heinz Kohut, the founder of self-psychology. Early professional private practice years were primarily in child psychiatry, however his practice expanded and would eventually include a lifelong service to people throughout all stages of life. In 1970, he was Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

My father continued in private practice until retirement in 2011 while also serving for various agencies including University of Cincinnati's Central Clinic, Family Services, Inc., and The Talbert House of Cincinnati, Ohio. His professional life spanned over 55 years.]

What do you do now?

I moved to Florida to be in warmer weather. I enjoy reading, relaxing, and just taking it easy. I enjoy looking out the window and watching the ocean from a lanai. I can see the bay near Sarasota, Florida from this viewpoint and watch birds while enjoying my latest P.D. James, Lee Child, and James Patterson books.  [This interview was conducted in January 2015.]

Final words?

To the undergraduates at Princeton: simply enjoy your life there at Princeton.  [ed. My father's great-grandfather, Rev. William Collins Handy, graduated from Princeton in 1855, exactly100 years before my father did (see a cousin's memorial here: http://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2009/03/04/sections/memorials/2936/index.xml ). I would be interested to know what Wm Collins Handy's major was! He married Marie Lettice Preston Breckinridge in 1857 (see Breckinridge family here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breckinridge_family). In the course of conducting this interview, I learned that my father's 60th reunion is approaching this year! He is excited to come to that event… It was nice learning more about dad than I knew earlier, which I think is a nice inter-generational story in itself. More students should do family history, I feel, because there is so much to learn.]