Aspiring to Preeminence

President LeBlanc shared his vision for GW at a community reception in Atlanta.

President Thomas LeBlanc
President Thomas LeBlanc greets attendees at a reception for GW community members in Atlanta. (Photos by Adam Hagy)
November 19, 2018

Atlanta was the seventh stop on George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc’s alumni and donor tour, but his message remained the same: GW is in the business of getting better.

Dr. LeBlanc shared his aspirations for GW with donors, alumni, families and friends from the Atlanta metro region at a community reception Nov. 14. He also discussed the accomplishments related to the university’s strategic initiatives during his first year in office. These initiatives will guide the university as it approaches its bicentennial in 2021.

The evening community reception began with a pre-reception for donors, where Dr. LeBlanc and Donna Arbide, vice president for development and alumni relations, thanked donors for their philanthropic leadership at GW. Ms. Arbide told the audience the university is striving for increased alumni giving, with a goal of 16,000 alumni donors this fiscal year.

“One of our goals at GW is to create a greater community of consistent philanthropy,” she said. “That is a reflection of loyalty and pride, and we hope we have many more alumni who love GW and will give back.”

Former GW student-athlete and donor Brianna Cummings, B.S. ’18, attended both the pre- and community receptions with her parents, donors Freddie and Angela Cummings, to learn more about Dr. LeBlanc’s priorities for her alma mater.

Brianna CummingsFormer GW student-athlete and donor Brianna Cummings, B.S. ’18, attended the Atlanta events.

A member of the 2018 Atlantic 10 GW Women's Basketball Championship team, Ms. Cummings took advantage of GW’s Student-Athlete Mentorship Program to connect with alumni in the Atlanta area and learn more about pursuing a career as a physician assistant after graduation.

“GW gave me a lot academically and athletically, and it had a family environment,” said Ms. Cummings, who fondly recalled the memories she and her teammates made on a trip to Europe during her first year. “I really want to stay engaged with GW and learn about the direction of the school.”

In addition to the community reception, Dr. LeBlanc and Ms. Arbide held small group meetings with select alumni leaders and parents in the metro Atlanta area to learn more about their personal GW experiences and discuss how they can remain involved with the university. 

During the community reception, Dr. LeBlanc shared recent progress on his university priorities, which include a new B.S. in international affairs and streamlining interactions among students, faculty and staff to cultivate a more efficient and positive culture at the university.

He also acknowledged families and students in attendance from the Posse Foundation. GW partners with the Posse Foundation to provide full-tuition leadership scholarships to select high school graduates from Atlanta, part of the university’s commitment to enrolling a more diverse student body with a focus on students from groups that are historically underrepresented in higher education. 

Since 2015, student enrollment from the Southeastern United States has significantly increased each year, with the majority from the metro Atlanta region. GW Regional Director of Admissions Carol Lee Conchar, who attended the evening’s events with her daughter, donor Haven Bills, B.A. ’16, said GW’s test-optional policy and its partnership with the Posse Foundation have led more students from the Southeast region to GW.

“Many students in public schools are more inclined to apply in state, and they unfortunately can’t see opportunities for themselves at GW,” she said. “Posse opened up opportunities for more diverse students from more public schools. We are also finding prospective students are learning about GW from their peers. Through word-of-mouth, they are seeing the impact of GW and are considering attending instead of enrolling in the in-state choices here in Georgia.”

Approximately 30 Posse scholars are now enrolled at GW, and Ms. Conchar said these students are “active voices on campus and are making change happen.”

That is exactly how GW parents Nancy and Scott Kleber describe their son, Posse scholar and sophomore Chase Kleber, who is active in several student organizations such as GW Ultimate Frisbee, and is developing leadership skills thanks to his relationship with the other Posse scholars.

“We are indebted to GW and Posse for providing this opportunity,” said Ms. Kleber. “GW has made a big push with students in this area, and it is working. I don’t think any of the kids from his high school would have had an inkling to go to GW without the financial aid, so kudos to GW.”

Nancy and Scott Kleber, Alex BurdenGW parents Nancy and Scott Kleber talk with Alex Burden, assistant director of GW Family Philanthropy.

Due to Chase’s scholarship, Mr. Kleber said the family is able to donate to GW and show their appreciation for the value of education.

“We hope the connection between Atlanta and GW continues, and we hope the Posse program continues to invest in Atlanta and GW,” he said.

Affordability in higher education was also on the mind of Amy Gopal, B.A. ’11, leader of GW’s Atlanta Alumni Network. Ms. Gopal first learned about GW from her brother Jeffrey A. D'Onofrio, B.A. ’09, M.Ed. ’10, and subsequently met with Ms. Conchar. During the question-and-answer section of the program, Ms. Gopal told Dr. LeBlanc she hopes her daughter will be a GW Colonial and asked how the university plans to increase its financial aid offerings and remain competitive with in-state schools.

Dr. LeBlanc said the university is doing “everything we can” to make a GW education more accessible. He noted the average student loan debt for an undergraduate degree at GW is approximately $32,000, which is far less than the total cost-of-attendance, and that financial aid is the “fastest growing budget line at the university by far.”

He reminded the audience that their philanthropic support was critical to helping the university help the next generation of students.

“I believe the greatest force for social mobility in our country today is higher education,” he said. “The only way that works is if we try to figure out how to make it affordable for people who otherwise can’t afford it.”

The university will host several additional receptions with Dr. LeBlanc during the 2018-19 academic year. The next reception is in Palm Beach, Fla., in February.

Individuals can support the university’s efforts to make a GW education affordable and accessible to all qualified students by making a gift to Power & Promise student aid.

University News


Moving the University Forward

October 15, 2018

President LeBlanc shared university updates at a reception with the GW community in Chicago.

President LeBlanc Addresses GW Community in New York

May 18, 2018
Dr. LeBlanc relayed his priorities for the university at a reception for alumni, donors, students who will start at the university in fall 2018 and their families.

A New England Welcome

April 16, 2018
President Thomas LeBlanc shared his university priorities with GW community members in the greater Boston area, including members of the class of 2022.