Alumni Celebrate GW Spirit

September 19, 2011

2011 Alumni Weekend draws thousands back to campus.

The air was chilly but the spirit was warm and inviting at GW’s 2011 Alumni Weekend, where more than 2,000 GW graduates returned to Foggy Bottom to celebrate their GW experience and reconnect with classmates.

The weekend kicked off with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards on Thursday evening, where five GW alumni were honored with the university’s highest alumni award.

Winners included Roslyn Brock, M.S. ’89, chairman of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP and vice president of advocacy and government relations for Bon Secours Health System, Inc.; Bruce Sewell, J.D. ’86, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of Apple, Inc.; Leonard Wartofsky, B.S. ’59, M.S. ’61, M.D. ’64, M.P.H. ’95, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Washington Hospital Center; Mary Margaret Whipple, M.A. ’69, Virginia state senator; and Sherri Rose, B.S. ’05, National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow and author. Dr. Rose is the Recent Alumni Achievement Award winner.

“Your contributions—you and your fellow alumni—not only strengthen the reputation of this great are what we give to the world,” GW President Steven Knapp told the awardees, their guests and the audience. “You are the fulfillment of the vision that goes all the way back to the founding of this university and what was imagined by George Washington.”

The Ramsey Student Investment Fund Conference on Friday brought together GW alumni from the finance world with current students who are managing the $1.4 million Ramsey Student Investment Fund, established in 2005 through a $1 million gift from GW Chairman of the Board of Trustees W. Russell Ramsey, B.A. ’81, and his wife, Norma. The fund allows students in an applied portfolio management course to gain hands-on practical investment skill under the guidance of GW faculty members.

The event featured a keynote address by Mark R. Shenkman, M.B.A. '67, a GW trustee and president and chief investment officer of Shenkman Capital Management. Mr. Shenkman gave his outlook on the state of U.S. and global economies and also offered insights into both investing and achieving personal success. “Differentiate yourself from your peers” and “think of yourself as an independent business,” were among his pieces of advice.

An alumni volunteer forum, also on Friday, brought together GW graduates from across the country who have committed to assisting GW with tasks like interviewing potential students, helping with fundraising and running regional alumni networks.

“Alumni are the hallmark of a great university,” Vice President for Development Mike Morsberger said. “There’s no magic bake sale, car wash, golf tournament, direct mail piece or gala. It’s about relationships, people and stories. The more you share your GW stories, the more people reflect on their own.”

Dr. Knapp and his wife, Diane Robinson Knapp, welcomed alumni to their home in the F Street House, a historic Foggy Bottom residence, for tours and refreshments on Friday afternoon. At the kickoff concert on Friday evening, Chuck Brown and Robert Randolph and the Family Band entertained alumni and guests—with a little help on the drums from Dr. Knapp.

Saturday included an extensive lineup of events, including breakfast with the deans; campus tours; the Taste of GW food festival, featuring cuisine from alumni-owned and run restaurants; lectures; and special group and class reunions.

Alumni and friends of the Peace Corps celebrated the organization’s 50th anniversary with a special luncheon. “GW has always been a university whose faculty and students are engaged in making policy and making an impact on the world, and we both welcome and produce students equipped to make a difference in essential global issues,” said Amy Cohen, executive director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. “We are consistently one of the leading contributors of Peace Corps volunteers nationally.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Frank Almaguer, M.S. ’74, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize from 1967 to 1969. He spoke as part of a panel at the anniversary luncheon. “It was a terrific event, including young and older alumni and many of us with both GW and Peace Corps experience,” Mr. Almaguer said. “GW’s commitment to public service has made its alumni more inclined to join people-to-people programs like the Peace Corps. In my case, Peace Corps volunteer service gave me the commitment to devote my career to development issues, and GW gave me the academic grounding to succeed.”

Among many class reunions held during the weekend was a special 30-year celebration for the class of 1981, which includes Mr. Ramsey, chairman of the GW Board of Trustees. Alumna Lorraine Voles, B.A. ’81, GW’s vice president for external relations, said her class has become closer as the years have passed.

“The ’80s were memorable for so many reasons, but the class of 1981 remembers dancing to ‘Funkytown’ and disparaging Captain and Tennille,” Ms. Voles said. “The class of 1981 is also a testament to GW's commitment to providing a lifelong community. When we first graduated, we did not hear much from the university. In the last decade, that has changed dramatically. Communication is much more frequent, and many of us are back on campus for a class, a game or, in my case, work.”

Sunday morning featured “A Discussion on Partisan Civility,” a brunch and discussion with Dana Perino, White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, and Mike McCurry, White House press secretary for Bill Clinton, as well as a scholarship brunch run by the Columbian Women, one of the university’s oldest alumni organizations.

Christine Coleman, B.A. ’91, and a member of the GW Alumni Association board of directors, helped plan her class’s 20th reunion. She attended Friday night’s concert with her first college roommate, where they especially enjoyed seeing President Knapp accompanying Chuck Brown on the bongos. Ms. Coleman said she also enjoyed the Taste of GW and the breakfast with the deans on Saturday. She invited a new GW freshman—the nephew of a colleague—to attend breakfast with the deans with her.

“There’s so much new energy with Dean Guthrie and the business school, and hearing him and Dean Dolling speak was great,” she said. “The entire weekend was a whirlwind, and everything was so well done.”

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