When Jeff Weld came to Castleton in 1999, he never knew the impact he would have here, or how long his stay might be.
Now Weld is director of Marketing and Communications for the college, is married to his college sweetheart and just welcomed a new baby. He’ll tell you life is good.
“When I came here that year, I quickly made friends,” Weld said. “And while I enjoyed my time here, I was never under the impression that it was going to be a 15-year commitment that I’ve made, and the college has made to me.”
As for their new baby, Sophia, Weld is ecstatic like you’d expect.
“Sophia being born was fantastic. I think being a parent is the most important responsibility any of us can ask for. It is life-changing seeing your children born. Unexplainable, really,” Weld said. “Life has changed in almost every way imaginable. We sleep a lot less, and certainly not when we choose to, but when we can.”
Weld grew up in small town Brownsville, Vt. He was a star athlete at Windsor High School, playing soccer and baseball, but it was his basketball skills that drew the attention of Tim Barrett, former Castleton men’s basketball coach, and current women’s coach of 14 years.
“He was a very good distributer of the basketball. He also handled the ball very well, and had good court vision,” Barrett said. “He played considerable minutes as a freshman and sophomore on our teams.”
That court vision led Weld to third in program history in assists.
But during his time in school, Weld was also a member of the Student Athletic Committee during a vital “transition period.”
When President Dave Wolk took over in December 2001, everything changed for Castleton – and for Weld.
“When President Wolk came, I can remember as a student, things changed. Our athletics changed, we added sports. We added better educational opportunities. The campus environment changed, students stayed more on the weekends. We supported each other more. There was a real culture shift,” Weld said, “A real feeling of change. At a school that has 227 years of history, you will look back at that point and say that’s one of the biggest moments in the college’s history.”
At the end of his senior year, Weld found himself six credits shy of a minor, and he said he frankly was, “not very marketable.” He decided to come back for what he jokingly calls his “victory lap,” a fifth year. Joking aside, Weld said, “that year changed my life the most.”
During that year, Weld got his minor credits and spent a year interning with the athletics department. But there was another factor at play for Weld that made him want to stick around just a little longer. It was a girl named Adrienne Venne, a member of the women’s basketball team.
“One of our really close, mutual friends, Jana Walker, introduced us between the basketball teams. She made some inroads for me, and glossed over some of my rough edges for me,” he said with a laugh.
The two started to date and have been together since 2000. Today they are married to and just last month welcomed little Sophia into the family.
Upon graduation in 2004, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Weld became Castleton’s sports information director, responsible for the day-to-day operations of sports information for all Castleton athletics.
Ben Stockwell, director of Athletic Communications, was hired in 2011 as the graduate assistant under Weld. Stockwell says that the two spent a lot of time in the press box together. He called Weld a great boss for a variety of reasons.
“He is concerned about the details, but he trusted that I would get the work done, and I really appreciated that. He is the type of person that I would want to be friends with if I never knew him,” Stockwell said.
After eight years as Sports Information director, Weld added director of College Relations to his duties. In that role, Weld found himself as the spokesperson of the college, something he never could imagine.
“When President Wolk asked me in 2012 to transition out of athletics and into a more, strategic role with the college, and be the spokesperson for the college, it was incredibly humbling. I look at President Wolk as a true leader, and a true man of integrity,” Weld said. “To have him give you the vote of confidence that he believes in you and that you are capable of doing a job like this, was a really humbling experience. Especially in a place that I have grown to care about as much as I do here.”
Wolk said Weld was an obvious choice for the role.
“He has an excellent work ethic, and is wonderful at bringing new creative ideas to our leadership team. It made sense that the person who is in charge of internal, and external communications is someone who grew up here on campus, and cares deeply about the college and its future,” Wolk said. “He has brought the college to new heights, and I would have to say, more than anyone I know here at Castleton, he bleeds green. Number 343 green. Castleton green. He loves Castleton, and we love him back.”
Wolk also said he admired Weld in his role as husband and dad saying “in many ways that is more important.”
But Weld doesn’t like taking all the credit for where he is, frequently pointing out numerous people who have helped him.
“I’m really fortunate to work with a great team of people. It’s one of those things where I never really feel like I’m managing at all. It truly is a position of working together,” he said.
Senior Molly DeMellier has known Weld since her basketball recruiting trip in her senior year of high school when he served as assistant women’s basketball coach. Now she works alongside him as a communications intern.
“He is a great leader, and that’s why he does so well in the position he has now. He is very honest with you, and it might not always be what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear,” DeMellier said.
DeMellier credits Weld for getting her interested in public relations.
“He has really helped me figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. He loves Castleton, and always wants the best for the students,” said DeMellier, who will be attending New York University next semester for a graduate degree in public relations, and corporate communications management.
“It’s all because of Jeff. I wouldn’t have even been able to consider it without everything I learned from him, and all the support he has shown,” DeMellier said.
But Weld stressed that often his job doesn’t seem like work.
“We get to tell the stories of our students, and how much fun is that? Every day we hear from students, and see students that are doing really remarkable things at a small college, in a small state. It’s a great thing to be in a position to tell those stories, and feel like you are making a difference in students’ lives,” he said.
The position does have its hard days though, like last years Dick’s Sporting Goods thefts involving key members of the football team.
“The hardest part is when our students make mistakes, and they don’t realize the gravity of those mistakes. When they do something publicly that is detrimental to the college, and its community, is by far the toughest time because, for one, it’s a difficult scenario. You have to answer the questions when the media calls, you have to navigate your way through some legal stuff about what we can say, and what we can’t say,” Weld said.
“When students get in trouble, or make mistakes that is not representative of the character of all our students, it tarnishes their reputation, and that’s definitely the hardest thing I have to deal with on a daily basis.”
Weld remains positive though, saying he has developed a life-mantra of staying positive.
“Accomplishments are nice and all, but the main thing is to remain positive, and to focus on the good that is around us, and not get bogged down in the negative,” he said.
And part of that mantra comes from a tragic event in his life. On July 13, 2011, the Welds had their first child together, a daughter named Reagan Sophia Weld. Reagan, however, was born with complications and tragically died just 16 days after her birth.
“Having Reagan in 2011, and going through such a high-stress situation like that, has given us a unique perspective on life’s trivialities. We truly don’t stress the small stuff. It’s a perspective that came wrapped in the most difficult pain I have ever experienced, but her life was a blessing, all 16 days of it,” he said.
Fast forward to today, three years and a handful of months later, the Welds find themselves with another daughter.
“We were prepared to deliver, but I think once it is really happening, you sort of go into fight or flight and adrenaline takes over. I just remember thinking let’s do this,” Weld says. “I don’t think I breathed until Sophia was given the clean bill of health and handed over to Adrienne. We cried like crazy. It was incredible.”
The Welds named Sophia after her big sister, Raegan, whose middle name was Sophia.
“We wanted to incorporate her experience with her sister as well, so when the time is right we can tell her all about her big sister,” he said.
“I’ve been a father since July 13, 2011, Reagan’s birthday. I’m very much looking forward to the newest chapter of that fatherhood. I think that all of life’s events change us,” said Weld. “We live, we learn, we grow. I definitely approach life much differently than I did prior to becoming a father. I try to be more in the moment than reflective at this point. Given our unique circumstance, we have a very real understanding of how fragile life truly is. I just want to enjoy every moment, no matter what.”