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Danette DiBiasio Wineberg ’68

Danette DiBiasio Wineberg '68

Danette DiBiasio Wineberg ’68 was born into a world richly infused with Oberlin culture. The daughter of two Oberlin graduates, she remembers their strong affection for the College and the constant presence of their alumni friends.

“My father was born in Italy to parents who came to the United States so he could be educated,” she says. “He loved Oberlin in every way. He shared with me one of his memories of arriving at Oberlin: he had just one dress shirt and found his roommate with a closet full of clothes. The older I get, the more I appreciate what Oberlin meant to him.

“My dad played football and baseball at Oberlin,” she adds. “And one of my Italian grandmother’s favorite stories was about feeding the Oberlin football team. The team gorged themselves on her spaghetti and meatballs, thinking it was the main course—then she kept going, bringing out the chicken, the salad, and the dessert. Reducing the Oberlin football team to a group of groaning men was one of my grandmother’s greatest culinary achievements.”

Living in Cleveland, and surrounded by a host of Oberlinians from a young age, Wineberg formed a special bond with the Cleveland Oberlin Women’s Club, the precursor to the Cleveland Alumni Club. It was an active group committed to raising scholarship funds and nurturing future generations of Oberlin women.

“They were an amazing community of women—my original mentors; I was fortunate to be one of their scholarship recipients,” Wineberg says. “If I had messed up at Oberlin, I wouldn’t have had just my parents to answer to, but also these strong, wonderful women who were paying great attention to what I was doing. I think this is why I was so attracted to serve Oberlin later on, because I was the grateful beneficiary of so much alumni work.”

Wineberg’s Oberlin years were marked by the social and political changes of the 1960s. “The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War dominated what people were doing and talking about on campus,” she says. “But what really stood out for me were the dramatic social changes on campus, the ethic of service, and the academic life of the College. I have strong memories of amazing classes, world-renowned speakers (including the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and fabulous concerts. The ‘guts’ of my Oberlin experience was its rich academic and artistic environment.”

Wineberg earned a law degree in 1980 at the University of Michigan Law School and began a legal career that led to her current role as vice president and general counsel for the Timberland Company in New Hampshire. Among her greatest joys was finding an employer whose corporate culture is so clearly aligned with her own values and the values of Oberlin.

As she built her professional life, Wineberg also began building a lifetime of service to Oberlin. She became an alumni admissions recruiter and a regional coordinator in Michigan and sat on several Alumni Association committees and its Executive Board. Eventually, she was elected president of the Alumni Association, during which time she participated in the College’s strategic planning efforts. After her presidency, she chaired an ad-hoc committee on sports and fitness. As the daughter and the parent of Oberlin athletes, it was a topic close to her heart.

Wineberg’s family ties to Oberlin remain strong to this day. She and her husband, Steve Wineberg ’67, have a son, Bryan Appleby-Wineberg ’92; a daughter-in-law, Sarah Appleby-Wineberg ’89; and two granddaughters.

“I have received so much from Oberlin and from my alumni activities,” she says. “Oberlin alumni are a large, diverse, and interesting community of people who are united by a commitment to make the world a better place and a common affection for the institution. In no other place in my life am I able to be with such a wide and rich variety of people who share such common values.”

Q & A

What attracted you to Oberlin?

I was familiar with Oberlin long before I knew it as the college I wanted to attend. I grew up in the Cleveland area, and my parents were active Oberlin alums who started bringing us to Commencement and Reunion activities when we were babies. Their circle of friends included many alumni, interesting people who were deeply engaged in the world around them. Their pride and commitment to Oberlin was obvious, and that impressed me too.

As a kid, and even as a teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed being on campus. My impressions were of a place that was fun (yes, really!) and intellectually rigorous and stimulating, a place with a long history and tradition of activism and which had world-class arts programs and a healthy athletic component—all of which were important to me. I loved the idea of small classes and close connections with faculty.

What about Oberlin resonates with you today?

Oberlin is a vibrant intellectual community whose core traditions still thrive. I am excited by much of what I see on campus, particularly the strength of the Conservatory and the College’s commitment to science education. I am also excited about Oberlin’s alumni. There are so many alumni—from recent grads to those who graduated 50-plus years ago—who are connected to each other and who are loyal to and engaged with the College.

What do you believe will be the most important issues facing Oberlin in the next five years?

Attracting bright, talented, and diverse students and faculty will continue to be a critical issue. Oberlin must distinguish itself as the best place to go for a liberal arts education and world-class training in the arts, as well as an institution deeply committed to human rights. How Oberlin accomplishes this will be another critical issue. Woven into these issues are financial realities. I believe that the current long-range planning process is an excellent way to further examine these emerging issues.

With limited financial resources, what would be your top funding priorities at Oberlin?

I have yet to take a deep dive into the financial aspects of running a college, but from what I understand today, my top priorities would be investments in faculty and students, so that we can achieve our goal of being the best college and conservatory in the country. I recognize, however, that this may mean investments in the physical plant as well. I also believe that leadership is key to building and maintaining a top-quality institution, and so I would invest (as Oberlin has) in key administrative positions.

What elements of your personal and/or professional life would be helpful in your service as an alumni trustee?

I would bring a lifelong love of Oberlin, which includes many multi-generational roles: as a child, a student, a spouse, an active alumna, and a parent. I am deeply committed to Oberlin’s values. I was involved in Oberlin’s prior long-range planning process, and I have been a contributing member and leader of a wide variety of groups, in which helping to solve difficult challenges and building consensus were important aspects. Professionally, I have had significant budget and personnel responsibilities for many years.

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