By Christina Noll for the Kentucky Alumni Magazine Summer 2011 issue
When asked what they remember most about their time at UK, brothers Donny Weber ’73 DES and Tom Weber ’78 DES recall a favorite professor, Clyde Carpenter, and many others who introduced them to a whole new world. One of their classes introduced them to a Dutch architect of renown at the time, Aldo Van Eck, and a particular saying of his: “Whatever time and space mean, place and occasion mean more.” The credo means so much to their careers, that they’ve given the quote a prominent spot on their company Web page. And the University of Kentucky is where this life-changing idea was instilled in their minds.
Although they graduated in different years, Donny Weber and Tom Weber spent time on campus together and were even roommates for a while. The College of Architecture was a cutting-edge place to be. “It was a time of open minded thinking, particularly in the College of Architecture,” says Donny Weber. That creative thinking at what is now called the College of Design has been the cornerstone of their success.
Specifically, Tom Weber recalls that Carpenter was instrumental in teaching him new ways of looking at things. For Donny Weber, Dick Levine and Pete Penny helped him connect the dots. Overall, both brothers credit their professors at UK and the architecture program with helping them to expand what they learned and put it into practice. “The architecture curriculum is pretty consumptive — we worked all day and all night on our projects. We were pretty intense,” says Donny Weber.
Their hard work in school paid off. In 1983, the two started the Weber Group, a metro Louisville-based company creating unique concepts for the world of design, construction and specialty fabrication services. Their goal is to bring the creativity of resort amenity design and planning to all living or work environments. And when they do this, they like to do it “BIG.” Perhaps you’ve seen the larger than life baseball at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends baseball team. Or their contributions to the Great Wolf Lodge resorts at 11 locations across the United States, which feature an indoor water park planned, designed and themed by Weber Group’s team of architects, construction managers and crafts crew.
Their work has taken them throughout the United States, Canada and China, including resort builds like Coco Key, theme park designs for Six Flags, and fabrication designs such as Sparkie at NASCAR Speed Park.
Although their design of amusement and water parks, holiday events and zoos may receive more attention, most of their revenue stems from their 25 years of experience with commercial and corporate campus design and build, hotels, mixed use and retail development and multi-family housing. “We’re more than funny characters,” says Tom Weber.
Perhaps the business has been successful despite their singular focus on success, because the two brothers are very individual. Tom Weber focuses more on the construction side and Donny Weber more on the architectural side at the Weber Group. The collaboration produces award-winning projects, many which have become recognizable landmarks and destination spots. “We never envisioned we would have such a broadly based career,” says Donny Weber.
Both brothers hold strong ties to the University of Kentucky. Tom Weber is married to Barbara Tohl Weber ’73 ’74 ED and together they have two sons, Max Weber ’07 BE, and Sam Weber, who also attended UK. Donny is married to Debra and together they have one daughter, Ashley Burch ’03 ’05 ED, and one son, Smith Weber.