Mr. Gewirz’s steadfast support of Jewish life at GW carried a family tradition into its second century.
Carl S. Gewirz, a real estate developer, inventor, musician and notable philanthropist, died in his sleep May 21. He was 88.
Mr. Gewirz, a Washington, D.C., native, leaves an indelible mark on his hometown—and George Washington University—that reaches far beyond the architectural evidence of his long career. A commercial builder and investor, he helped shape the skyline and shepherd the District’s transformation into today’s vibrant urban environment.
“Mr. Gewirz was a visionary philanthropist, a builder, a dreamer and one of our most dedicated cheerleaders until the very end of his life,” said President Thomas LeBlanc. “His business acumen, his friendship, his sense of humor and his kindness will be sorely missed.”
Mr. Gewirz had many charitable interests, but GW Hillel was his favorite. His support and generosity over the years were instrumental in growing the organization and securing its campus home, including a new state-of-the-art building currently under construction. The new structure sits on the footprint of the old and obsolete building it replaces at the Gewirz Center site, the name honoring his family’s sponsorship when it originally opened in 1986.
Mr. Gewirz contributed much more than bricks and mortar to GW Hillel. His personal engagement and hands-on involvement arose from a duty of service he inherited from both parents. Beginning in the 1970s, he served as president of the campus organization for 15 years, a legacy from his father who first held the GW Hillel gavel 30 years earlier right after World War II.
Building and sustaining a robust Jewish community at GW is a family affair that began more than 100 years ago. His mother, Frances Gewirz, founded the first Jewish sorority on campus in 1918. Over the years, the family’s involvement with GW grew along with the city.
“It is impossible to separate Carl Gewirz from GW Hillel,” said Adena Kirstein, GW Hillel’s executive director. “His family’s devotion to GW Hillel was a torch he carried from a very young age. When we open the doors to our new home this fall, his presence and vision will very much be with us.”
Mr. Gewirz spent his professional career building projects aimed at improving the quality of life for all area residents and workers.
“We are incredibly grateful for Carl’s support and the longstanding generosity of the entire Gewirz family,” said Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president of development and alumni relations. “Their philanthropy over the years has made a significant impact, not only on our campus but across our broader community.”
In 1997, he founded the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, a non-profit organization to enhance this 43-square-block neighborhood just north and east of GW through public art, events and capital improvements.
Mr. Gewirz served 25 years as president of the Connecticut Avenue Association and also presided over the Palisades Citizen Association. He was a member of the Collectors Committee of the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center International Committee and the Washington Hebrew Congregation.
A boyhood interest in Popular Mechanics spurred a lifelong curiosity and interest in innovation that led to multiple inventions and two U.S. patents.
He held a bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from American University.
The family requests that donations in honor of Mr. Gewirz’s memory be made to GW Hillel.