Joyce Brandman has a self-described “soft spot in my heart for our military.” Her father, husband and brother—three of the most important men in her life—served in the United States Navy, and their selfless patriotism and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country motivates the California philanthropist’s support for military veterans.
Educational access for veterans is a high priority for Brandman and the opportunity to double her gift’s impact through GW’s Third Century Scholarship Match was a natural fit. GW enrolled the nation’s first beneficiary of the G.I. Bill and was one of the first institutions to join the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Yellow Ribbon Program. “It’s important to help those who have protected our country,” Brandman said. “I think that often not enough is done for them when they return.”
Many service members may have extra challenges such as young children or other family obligations that limit their ability to work while studying full time, she explained. “It’s tough today,” Brandman said. “You can’t just go to night school like my generation could, and student loans are a tough way to start out.” Brandman is grateful that college debt wasn’t an issue for her, despite her working class roots.
"As a country, we owe tremendous gratitude to our military veterans," said GW President Ellen M. Granberg. "This unique student population already has the experience and leadership skills to be successful at GW and beyond. And thanks to the Brandman Foundation's generous scholarship support, many of our student veterans can focus more on achieving that success than dealing with the worries of financial needs."
The Joyce and Saul Brandman Military Veteran Endowed Scholarship Fund awards 11 scholarships annually for student veterans in their junior or senior year at GW. Recipients are known as Brandman Scholars.
The scholarship fund carries on the legacy begun by Brandman’s late husband, Saul. A self-made man who left pre-med studies to “serve his turn” during World War II, he returned from combat to a long and successful career in the garment industry and real estate. The California-based Joyce and Saul Brandman Foundation has supported the military and education as well as other programs to advance health care, senior citizens and Jewish causes.
“A lot of what we do is in our own backyard,” said Brandman, who takes an active, hands-on approach as president of the foundation. However, GW Trustee Michelle Rubin, B.A. ’91, is a very dear friend of her and her late husband, Saul. Rubin serves on the board of the Brandman Foundation and facilitated the introduction that led to the gift.
“Joyce and the Joyce and Saul Brandman Foundation are incredible friends of GW, and we are beyond grateful for this gift,” said Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “These scholarships can make all the difference in our veteran students’ ability to complete an academic program and gain the life-changing power of a GW degree.”
Arbide, who lived in Germany and Taiwan during her father’s Army career, understands firsthand the sacrifices and special challenges returning veterans face. Many students still struggle to make ends meet despite the Yellow Ribbon Program and other military education benefits, Arbide explained. The Brandman Scholars receive supplemental funding that can cover costs not met by tuition scholarships, such as books, housing and emergency aid.
“I’m really proud to be part of an institution that has so much to offer veterans and military-affiliated students to prepare them with viable career options,” Arbide said.
Veteran Parker Reese, a junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is an inaugural Brandman Scholar. Following in his family’s tradition of military service, including his father and grandfather, Reese enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after his 2017 high school graduation. Stationed in Hawaii for four years, he “loved the Marines” and his work in military communications. He plans to return to the Marines as a commissioned officer.
His systems engineering program of study at GW advances the knowledge he gained as an enlisted Marine, and he looks forward to continuing his work at a higher level of responsibility when he earns the appropriate academic underpinning, he said. Reese chose GW because of its quality reputation, proximity to his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Yellow Ribbon Program availability.
“I would not have been able to come here and get this valuable education without Yellow Ribbon and donors like the Brandman Foundation,” Reese said, adding that GW’s Military Resource Center has been “incredibly helpful” assisting with educational issues.
With approximately 1,400 students, GW’s military veteran student population is one of the largest at any private university in the United States, thanks to the proximity of the Pentagon, Coast Guard Headquarters and a number of active military bases. GW also hosts a large cross-town enrollment Naval Officer Training Corps (GW NROTC) unit of midshipmen and prior-enlisted sailors and Marines from GW and other area universities.
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