In Memoriam: Jennifer Gonzalez Perdomo

December 18, 2011

GW community mourns loss of women’s studies graduate student.

GW graduate student Jennifer Gonzalez Perdomo, 27, died Dec. 13 after a sudden illness. She was a second-year master’s student in the Department of Women’s Studies in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Ms. Perdomo, a native of Miami, lived in Fairfax, Va., with her husband, Rafael Perdomo. She graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in English/creative writing and concentrations in political science and women’s studies.

At GW, Ms. Perdomo was a member of the GW Graduate Feminists, as well as a practicum leader in the Department of Women’s Studies. She was also a member of the leadership council of the D.C. chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, and was a leadership program intern at the American Association of University Women.

Daniel Moshenberg, an associate professor of English and the director of the Women’s Studies program, remembered Ms. Perdomo as a strong writer and researcher who cheerfully accepted challenging projects. One of these projects involved writing a weekly “Women on the Move” column for the website of Women In and Beyond the Global, a feminist project about exploring women’s paid and unpaid labor in four spheres: the home, prisons, cities and information networks.

“It was a project with no rules, and she took to it with great alacrity and creativity,” Dr. Moshenberg said. “And she was a terrific person. She’ll be sorely missed by many people.”

At a memorial gathering Dec. 14 in the Women’s Studies Department, Ms. Perdomo’s colleagues and friends shared stories of her intellect, humor and humility.

“Jenny was able to bridge different worlds,” said Cynthia Deitch, an associate professor of women's studies, sociology and public policy, with whom Ms. Perdomo worked on planning the women’s studies practicum. “She combined nonprofit management with feminist theory. She was smart and creative and interesting.”

Laura Webb, a women’s studies master’s student, said that Ms. Perdomo was extremely organized and always prepared, but also had an irreverent side. “She was always together and prepared and polite, but in every class we’ve been in, at some point in the semester, she’d just let loose a zinger,” Ms. Webb said. “She’d say something hilarious out loud, and the whole room would just dissolve. I’m really going to miss that.”

Ms. Perdomo’s mother, Carmen Gonzalez, said her daughter was “a dynamo”—smart and funny, with a desire to save the world. But Ms. Perdomo was also humble, said her aunt, Pat Nelson.

Ms. Perdomo’s husband, Rafael, who was her high school sweetheart, said he loved his wife for her enthusiasm and the way that she spread it around—“almost by osmosis,” he said. She also worked tirelessly at her graduate studies at GW.

“Jenny put everything into this program. She put her heart into it. She ignited a fire in people, and she was really motivated by what the Women’s Studies program was doing,” he said.

Hannah Belec, a graduate student and member of the Graduate Feminists group, said one of the hardest things about Ms. Perdomo’s death was not being able to see her extraordinary potential played out.

“We all wish we had had a chance to let Jenny know how highly we thought of her and what a profound mark she has left on us and on our tight-knit community. If she were here, and I believe that she is, we would remind her: Jenny, you were one of us. You were a GF, a strong feminist and a good friend,” Ms. Belec said. “We’re so grateful that you shared a brief part of your life with us, and we’ll do our best to honor your name and your legacy here at GW.”

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