GW Celebrates Alumni Weekend

University recognizes alumni success, engagement with more than 60 events.

Alumni embracing at alumni weekend reception
Alumni reconnect at a reception hosted by the university honors program.
September 22, 2014

By James Irwin

As a graduate student in the mid-1960s, Mark Shenkman believed he would one day be in a position to put his family name on a George Washington University campus building.

He even wrote it down as a goal for a class project.

Enrolled in a case management and strategic planning course, Mr. Shenkman, M.B.A. ’67, now a member of the university Board of Trustees, outlined a plan to one day repay GW for offering him an opportunity to launch a successful career.

“There were no right or wrong answers. The key was for students to think and plan their future in concrete terms,” Mr. Shenkman said of the assignment. “In the 1960s, I believe no university allocated resources to a separate career services department. Therefore, to me, the assignment was special and significant.”

More than 45 years later, the dream of putting his family name on a university building has become a reality. GW dedicated Shenkman Hall on Friday at an Alumni Weekend ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff and trustees. The building, a Foggy Bottom Campus residence hall formerly known as Ivory Tower, was renamed following a $5 million donation from Mr. Shenkman and his wife, Rosalind, to support the very initiative that put him on a path to success: career planning.

“The real intent of our family gift is to facilitate and help GW students launch their professional careers,” Mr. Shenkman said of the donation to the GW Career Services Enhancement Initiative and the F. David Fowler Career Center at the School of Business. “Students should be afforded a greater opportunity to develop the required personal skills and marketing techniques necessary to secure a meaningful job upon graduation.”

Mr. Shenkman’s unwavering support for his alma mater—he also is a member of the GWSB Advisory Board and funded the move and expansion of Veterans Memorial Park in 2013—highlighted a busy and spirited Alumni Weekend at GW, as the university and George Washington Alumni Association welcomed thousands of graduates back to campus.

Nearly 2,000 alumni enjoyed more than 60 events from Thursday through Sunday, ranging from reunion celebrations and academic gatherings to networking receptions and tours of campus.

GW honored six graduates Thursday night at the 78th annual Alumni Achievement Awards and hosted hundreds of guests at a Saturday afternoon “Taste of GW” event featuring restaurants and catering businesses owned by GW alumni. Milestone class and organization reunions, including those for Presidential Administrative Fellows (25th), WRGW (85th) and Colonial Inauguration (25th) took place throughout the weekend. A Friday night all-alumni kickoff party at the Charles E. Smith Center preceded the annual Alumni Weekend Concert, which featured 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Daryl Hall and John Oates.

“I couldn’t miss Hall and Oates,” said Lauren Peterson, B.S. ’06, J.D. ’09, as she waited for the concert to start. “They were here this summer, and I missed it, so I figured this was a great opportunity to catch them. I'm meeting up with some friends from undergraduate tonight.”

The Class of 2009 won the reunion fundraising challenge, topping its participation goal by 28 percent. An anonymous reunion donor had pledged $25,000 to GW in honor of the class that exceeded its donor goal by the highest percentage. In total, 1,662 donations were made with 320 of them exceeding $1,000.

"I am incredibly proud,” said Julie Silverbrook, B.A. ’09, chair of the class of 2009 reunion committee. “Young alumni can absolutely make an impact, and we came out in full force to demonstrate that we are invested in the future of this university. It is clear to me that alumni are committed to ensuring that GW continues to serve as an incubator of great ideas and a hub for educating future generations of national and global leaders."

Alumni Weekend, long part of Colonials Weekend, was established as a standalone program in 2007. The events and programs provide a setting to strengthen ties among GW graduates, said Steve Frenkil, B.A. ’74, president of the GW Alumni Association.

“Look at the alumni awards, for example. When you’re honoring those people, you’re also honoring the alumni association,” he said. “So it’s an exciting weekend. We have had great turnout for years and it gives people an opportunity to engage with each other and the university.”

Alumni Achievement Award winner and former WTOP Radio political analyst Mark Plotkin, B.A. ’69, used the Thursday night awards dinner to stage an impromptu reunion of classmates and friends.

“I don’t keep track of my mail as well as I should, and when the letter came telling me I was receiving an award, there was nothing particularly distinctive about it— I almost didn’t open it,” Mr. Plotkin said before the event.

He smiled.

“And I opened it, and then I started calling everybody, like a little boy. I started calling everybody who means something to me, because I wanted to tell them and invite them as my guests."


University Dedicates Shenkman Hall

September 19, 2014
GW trustee, family honored at Alumni Weekend ceremony.

GW Honors Six With Alumni Achievement Award

September 18, 2014
Political analyst Mark Plotkin, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences CEO Neil Portnow among those recognized.