By John DiConsiglio
As a first-generation college student and a scholarship recipient, Sandra Jarva Weiss, B.A. ’80, J.D. ’83, collected a trove of cherished only-at-GW moments—from interning at the U.S. State Department to ushering at the Kennedy Center to strolling by the rose bushes outside Monroe Hall.
Among her favorite memories is an art history class she took in her sophomore year. The course stood out, she said, partly because of the way Professor of Art History Lilien Robinson made the material come alive—and partly because of the classmate who sat next to her. Daniel H. Weiss, B.A. ’79, was a psychology major she knew from working at the Kennedy Center, and her future husband.
The couple married the summer after she graduated and their connection with GW has only grown over the years. “We still drag our sons to all our favorite GW spots,” she laughed. “They roll their eyes at us.”
Now, she’s helping students write their own GW stories. The couple endowed the Matthew Reynolds Scholarship Fund, named for Daniel Weiss’ late brother, a 1986 philosophy alumnus from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS). The fund will provide a full CCAS scholarship for a student, who might not otherwise have the opportunity for a GW education. Jarva Weiss noted that she could not have attended GW without scholarship aid and she is extending the same helping hand to students today.
“This is a very meaningful charitable endeavor for us because a scholarship is why I ended up at GW,” said Jarva Weiss, who also attended GW Law School on a full scholarship and has practiced health care law for over 30 years. “I want students to be able to embrace the same opportunities I had.”
Among her many GW-related activities, Jarva Weiss serves on the CCAS National Council and is spearheading efforts to diversify membership among younger members and people of color. Her husband, Daniel Weiss, who parlayed his art history class into a distinguished career in the art world and is now the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, received GW’s Monumental Alumni award in 2021.
Aiming for a career in the Foreign Service, Jarva Weiss was intent on going to school in Washington, D.C. While she’d briefly traveled to the area on family holidays, she applied to GW without first visiting the Foggy Bottom campus. When she was offered a scholarship that covered the bulk of her tuition, she jumped at the opportunity. “The scholarship made it possible for me to attend GW,” she said. “I loved being right in the center of Washington. I took advantage of everything the university and the city had to offer.”
By her sophomore year, she switched her major to economics. Through the GW Career Services Office, she secured an internship with the Arms Control Disarmament Agency, then an independent bureau housed within the State Department. She was also an usher at the Kennedy Center, where she first met her future husband who was working at the Kennedy Center gift shops. The pair chatted but their psychology and economics schedules rarely overlapped until Daniel Weiss enrolled in Robinson’s art history class just to talk to Jarva Weiss. “So taking that class was a life-changing event for both of us,” she said.
Jarva Weiss decided to take the LSAT on a whim. “I sort of stumbled into law,” she laughed. “After finishing my B.A., I was wondering, ‘Well, what comes next?’” Now she’s the chair of the Norris McLaughlin Health Care & Life Sciences Practice Group. Throughout her career, she’s worked in all areas of health care regulation and handled issues involving topics such as providing blood transfusions for children of Jehovah’s Witnesses and ensuring the safety of prisoners admitted to a hospital for treatment of prison-related injuries.
She and her husband still share a love of art that began in that Robinson class many years ago, although she prefers the realism of Northern Renaissance art and he’s partial to the Medieval period. The couple often plans their vacations around visiting museums and still enjoy perusing the Met galleries, like the famous Hellenistic statuette of a veiled bronze figure known as the Baker Dancer.
Jarva Weiss hopes the scholarship fund will help continue a pay-it-forward tradition of giving among the GW family. “I would encourage [scholarship] students to never lose your connections to GW,” she said. “Take advantage of your professors and the internships and opportunities that are available to you. And remember where many of those opportunities come from. Then, when it’s your time, find a way to give back to the GW community.”