Annie Hekker Weiss, a successful media executive who worked for years at Fox on shows like the "Teen Choice Awards" and "American Idol," set her sights on a new goal -- to be a college professor. Her son, Ryan Weiss, a public relations major and a star athlete on SUNY Oswego’s baseball team, raved about the team and his experience at the school.

In secret, Annie applied to the strategic communication master's program. She kept her application from everyone -- including Ryan, who Annie said she owes his infectious spirit and praise of the education he was getting at SUNY Oswego that made her apply to the masters program.

“Ryan has a contagious spirit and he gets very hyped up, and you want to go for the ride so I looked at the program at SUNY Oswego,” Annie said. “Once I was accepted, I met some of the professors and they were amazing and, combined with Ryan’s contagious spirit, it pushed me over the line and I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

The two are now set to graduate from their respective programs this Saturday, May 14 and are set to graduate from the 4 p.m. School of Communication, Media and the Arts (SCMA) ceremony together –- Annie walking for her master's degree, and Ryan for his undergraduate degree. 

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Ryan said. “I mean, my mom taught me so much my whole life. When she first started I was teaching her how to get on Blackboard and register for classes, and then we would talk about classes and discussions –- it’s been great having my mom.” 


Ryan chose SUNY Oswego to play on the baseball team, and he has been one of the nationally ranked team's stars since starting. After graduation, Ryan will continue his athletic career at Canisius as he pursues his master's in sports product development. 

“Initially I just loved the baseball program, that’s what I was looking for right off the bat,” Ryan said. “Once I visited, I immediately knew this was going to be my spot. I love the campus, I love the town, I love the academic program, so it had kind of a perfect storm in the sense of academics and athletics.”

The Oswego Laker baseball team recently became SUNYAC regular season champions and captured home field advantage for the SUNYAC championship playoffs this weekend, May 12 to 14. While the good news is they will play the championship tournament here at home, it could also mean Ryan may miss a walk with his mom –- but they have shared big memories since Ryan’s childhood.

“We’ve always been really connected,” Annie said. “Ryan used to come to work with me in New York City and sit backstage at the 'Teen Choice Awards,' as did my daughters. This has felt almost like a little extension of that –- it’s kind of nice to have gone full circle.”

Annie’s choice to attend Oswego –- made easy by Ryan’s attendance –- was made even easier once she met faculty and other students. Since day one, Annie notes that her fellow students have always made her feel welcome and at ease, always collaborated with her and made her feel welcome despite the age difference. 

While Annie is an extended learner, she still made connections with students and faculty and participated in projects such as the Grad School Essentials (GSE) podcast and presented her project, titled “Entrepreneurial adversity through a gender and racial lens,” at Quest Day 2022.

“Several years ago you wouldn’t think you’d get the strongest education from an online learning platform, but I think many teachers have made it their mission to make this kind of education rigorous and accessible.” Annie said.

Weiss advice

The Weiss family will now move into the next stages of their lives and careers. What they hope to leave with SUNY Oswego hopefuls, current students and new alumni alike is their sage family advice -- go fearlessly into the next chapter.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new,” Ryan said. “It was off a whim I wanted to come here, and then I had to beg the coach to let me come early. He said he didn’t have a spot for me and I said “I don’t care –- I’m coming.” Jump right in and don’t be afraid of the worst outcome because it probably won’t come true.”

“I hate to glom onto it –- but it is our family motto –- to get out of your comfort zone,” Annie said. “When I went to school we didn’t have computers so to go back into academia in such an all in way while I still have a job and kids … take everything with a grain of salt and push through and just know there’s so many great opportunities out there.” 

Annie and Ryan will always have this chapter to look back on fondly together. While they may not have stepped on campus and physically sat in the same classes together, they have one fond memory that will bond them on the shores of Lake Ontario forever. 

“It had to be when we realized we had the same professor and sent the same exact screenshot at the same exact time,” Annie said. 

“The YouTube, I remember!” Ryan said. “I sent her a text and said 'I don’t know if this is your professor, but this is the lecture I’m watching right now' …that was probably the funniest part.”

For more information on May graduation, visit the Commencement website.