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GW Award Recipients Named
May 17, 2012
Two students, a professor and a retiring administrator will receive the prestigious George Washington Awards.
Four George Washington community members will be singled out Sunday with a distinct honor on the National Mall during Commencement.
Graduating students Alyssa Abraham, B.A. ’12, and Nicholas Sampogna, B.A. ’10, M.A. ’12; Professor of Law Gregory Maggs; and Senior Vice Provost and Senior Vice President Robert Chernak, Ed.D. ’97, will receive the 36th annual George Washington Award.
The award honors individuals who have made exceptional contributions to advancing university objectives including: providing superior instruction, facilities and a balanced program of extracurricular activities; enhancing students’ abilities; and capitalizing on the university’s presence in D.C.
Ms. Abraham, an international affairs major, caught the attention of the selection committee for her leadership, scholarship and communication skills.
She says her experiences in the Women’s Leadership Program have helped her refine those characteristics. “I was challenged by a group of highly intellectual, creative women to explore new issues and take risks,” she said. Ms. Abraham was the house proctor for WLP and will be the graduate teaching assistant for the program next fall while she pursues a degree in international affairs and conflict resolution.
Ms. Abraham—who has held internships with U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; and in the Legislative Affairs Bureau at the U.S. Department of State—is also humble and “possesses the rare ability to garner admiration” from all those with whom she interacts, the committee wrote.
“I was shocked,” Ms. Abraham said of hearing she received the award. “I felt so honored and really speechless. I think it still has not really sunk in all the way for me.”
Mr. Sampogna was similarly struck when he learned he got the award.
“I was speechless, which many people who know me can attest that it doesn’t happen very often, immediately followed by humility and gratitude,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Sampogna—who received his B.A. in international affairs from GW in 2010 and will receive his master’s in higher education administration this month—has bettered the lives of those around him and given back to the community, the committee said.
He has served as the “face” of GW for incoming students and their families as a member of the Colonial Cabinet, and he helped develop the Guide to Personal Success mentoring program for undergraduate students. He has also worked with graduate, distance and professional students, “creating programs to ensure their integration into the GW identity and community,” the committee wrote.
“I would have to say my favorite moments have been watching students that I knew through student organizations or through the Guide to Personal Success program progress and succeed throughout their time at GW and after they have graduated,” Mr. Sampogna said.
This kindness and generosity have had broad reach, according to the committee. Mr. Sampogna is also a member of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, which he considered one of his most important GW experiences.
Mr. Maggs, meanwhile, was described by the committee as the “consummate example of a professor who could go anywhere but chose to dedicate himself to the university.”
Among Mr. Maggs’ accomplishments is developing a system for generating the law class schedule each semester, serving as interim dean while helping the law school fundraise $10 million in a year and creating the “Road to the Future” fellowship program to link Law School graduates with work in government, firms and nonprofits.
Mr. Maggs is considered a paragon for effective teaching, a professor who inspires and mentors students and young faculty alike.
“I am very honored to be selected for this award,” said Mr. Maggs, adding it was “startling” to receive the award after he nominated a colleague for it. “I owe everything to GW and the opportunities the university has given me, and I look forward each day to working with the students, staff and faculty.”
Dr. Chernak, the final recipient, will receive the GW Award to cap off a 24-year tenure at the university. “There is no one else on this campus who has done so much to single-handedly influence the student experience at this university,” the committee wrote of the administrator.
With a large swath of accomplishments to his name, Dr. Chernak has overseen undergraduate admissions, student financial assistance, athletics and recreation, dean of students and student life departments, including international student services, Disability Support Services, the Career Center, student health and counseling. He created Colonial Inauguration, GW’s fixed tuition plan, the Division of Student and Academic Support Services, as well as the Office of Campus Recreation, Office of Parent Services, the Multicultural Student Center and GW Housing Programs.
It was these accomplishments, along with Dr. Chernak’s ability to listen and make difficult decisions while maintaining a sense of humor, that earned him the award, the committee wrote.
“I am truly honored to have been selected for this year’s GW Award,” Dr. Chernak said. “I will accept it as testimony to the hard work and effort of hundreds of my SASS colleagues who for the past 24 years accomplished so much for our students and this university.”
GW Provost Steven Lerman, who will recognize the quartet on Sunday at the university-wide Commencement ceremony, lauded them for their accomplishments and work at the university.
“The contributions made by this group of students, faculty and staff are exceptional,” Dr. Lerman said. “They are true innovators and leaders on campus, and they contribute to the dynamic and compassionate quality of our GW community.”