Class of 2017 Celebrates Historic Giving

Seniors marked their time at George Washington University and their contributions to the “Making History” campaign.

senior toast
Students pose for a photo during the Senior Class Toast, where it was announced the Class of 2017 donated $109,430 to the Senior Class Gift. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
May 21, 2017

By Kristen Mitchell

Senior Jared Beard has had a whirlwind of a semester. Standing in the Grand Ballroom at the Marvin Center dressed in graduation robes, he said it was only just starting to sink in that his time at George Washington University was coming to a close.

“With finals and being so busy, it didn’t really hit me until the family started coming in and people started taking graduation pictures,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. I’ve had a great time here, I’m definitely going to miss this place.”

Mr. Beard, a GW lacrosse player who majored in international affairs, joined hundreds of his peers Friday to celebrate their time at GW and the contributions they have made to the university at the annual Senior Class Toast. This year, seniors donated $109,430 to the Senior Class Gift and a record number of students made Luther Rice Society-level gifts.

senior toast

Seniors celebrate the Class of 2017 in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom on the Friday before Commencement.

The GW Division of Development and Alumni Relations hosted the Senior Class Toast, which marks graduating seniors’ transition to GW’s network of more than 275,000 global alumni. The commencement week tradition features champagne, cupcakes, commemorative sunglasses and a class photo.

Senior Class Gift donors helped GW reach a significant milestone. George Washington President Steven Knapp and Nelson Carbonell, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced during the event that Making History: The Campaign for GW surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal more than a year ahead of schedule.

Dr. Knapp thanked seniors for their support and wished them luck on their future endeavors. The impact these students will make on the world embodies the spirit of the Making History campaign, he said.

“We make history through you,” Dr. Knapp said. “It is you going out into the world that is going to be the way the university makes history into and beyond the foreseeable future.”

No matter where students go after commencement, they will always have a cultural and intellectual home in Washington, D.C., Dr. Knapp said.

Mr. Carbonell said this year’s senior class donors join more than 6,000 graduating seniors who gave before them. Their generosity showcases the culture of philanthropy at GW, he said.

“Your investment and that of those who came before you ensures that future generations of Colonials will have the same opportunities you had to make the most of your college experience,” he said.

senior toast

The Class of 2017 donated $109,430 to the Senior Class Gift. A record number of students made Luther Rice Society-level gifts. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)

Lindsay Goodman, a Senior Class Gift Committee co-coordinator, said students’ contributions represent the organizations and moments that have made their time at GW so special.

“Our gifts will make a difference for the Colonials who follow in our footsteps,” she said.

Ms. Goodman acknowledged the event would be Dr. Knapp’s last senior class toast. He is stepping down from his role as university president this summer, which makes him a member of the class of 2017 as well, she said.

After commencement on Sunday newly minted GW alumni will scatter across the United States and beyond, but they will take their memories of GW with them. Senior Melissa Dever, who majored in journalism and mass communication, said she plans to stay in Washington, D.C. after graduation, but will miss the tightknit community she has formed at GW through theater.

“It was a really big part of my experience, that niche and supportive community I found within GW,” she said. “It’s hard to believe I’m leaving.”

Student Life


U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth Urges Graduates ‘to Get in the Arena’

May 21, 2017
Sen. Duckworth, Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West and The Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron received honorary degrees as 6,000 students graduated from GW.

Making History: The Campaign for GW Surpasses $1 Billion Goal

May 19, 2017
More than 65,000 donors propelled the university’s largest-ever fundraising initiative, which will end June 30.