Hundreds gather in Manhattan to celebrate university’s $1 billion philanthropic campaign.
By Joan Ochi
In a spectacularly restored building that once housed the Cunard Steamship Line, nearly 500 George Washington University alumni, trustees, parents and friends gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate Making History: The Campaign for GW. The first of several celebrations that take the campaign on the road over the coming year, the event brought the GW community in New York together to greet old friends and forge new connections, and to learn more about the ambitious $1 billion philanthropic endeavor that will take the George Washington University into its third century.
New York has a special connection to GW. More than 17,000 alumni call the region home, the largest concentration of alumni outside of Washington, D.C. In addition, New York continues to be the top feeder state for undergraduate students, so it was fitting that the Big Apple was selected as the first stop in a multi-city tour that includes Philadelphia, Miami and Southern California.
President Steven Knapp welcomed the crowd and provided an update on the campaign, which publicly launched in June at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Since its official start in July 2011, the campaign has raised $614 million to support students, enhance academics and break new ground through research and capital projects. Nelson A. Carbonell Jr., B.S. ’85, and chair of the GW Board of Trustees, and the Honorable B.J. Penn, M.S. ’80, the inaugural campaign co-chair, spoke about the importance and impact of the campaign.
“GW changed my life and my personal history. I’m enormously grateful for that, and I want to give back,” said Mr. Penn, former assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and environment and a former GW trustee. “I had to stand on the shoulders of many people to get to where I did, and as part of this campaign, we are asking you to think about how you can be those shoulders for others—as a donor or a volunteer or a connector or a mentor. We are here to help our students and faculty achieve their dreams and empower them to change the world.”
Three of the university’s outstanding citizen-leaders offered testimonials that illustrated how their GW experiences are enabling them to make history. Jonathan Hochberg, B.B.A. ’85, loved his experience at GW when he was a student 30 years ago, but it was a trip to Washington, D.C. to show his children his alma mater when he reconnected with the university. “I started poking around and doing some research to find out what was going on at GW since I graduated. I not only came away impressed, but with a feeling of responsibility and desire to be more connected with the success of the school,” Mr. Hochberg said. His daughter is now a GW student, and he has become more deeply engaged as well—serving on the GW School of Business Board of Advisors and hosting summer sendoffs and student career treks. He and his wife are also generous donors, including funding a professorial fellowship for leadership development.
George Washington University President Steven Knapp addresses the gathering in New York.
Lara Oboler, M.D. ’95, talked about her GW education and “the spirit of camaraderie and cohesive community that pervades all aspects of both learning and caregiving.” Dr. Oboler added, “It’s this unique experience that gives us an invaluable perspective into the true meaning of medicine and healing, and will serve us well as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of medicine.” She and her husband also have made giving back to GW a priority, endowing the H. George Mandel scholarship fund for the medical school, providing a need-based scholarship to a student in his or her final semester.
Finally, current student Kyle Miller, a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and recipient of a scholarship through GW’s Power & Promise student aid initiative, shared his story. “From rowing on the Potomac to interning at the National Archives to studying engineering abroad in Australia, these experiences largely have taught me that any goal is achievable,” Mr. Miller said. “My university has allowed me to define who I am and what I am going to do for the world through gifts from alumni like you, and I cannot express how much gratitude I hold in my heart for this.”
Dr. Knapp thanked GW’s New York community for their rousing reception and concluded the program with a toast to the university. "This monumental campaign will help us achieve our aspirations to become the university that George Washington envisioned," he said.
For more information on Making History, visit campaign.gwu.edu.