In Memoriam: Nathalie Atalla

Nathalie Atalla
July 20, 2011

By Menachem Wecker

A Cairo-based online master’s candidate at GW, whom GW Today profiled last February, passed away recently after being in a car accident.

Nathalie Atalla, who told GW Today about how she used her father’s rifle to guard her apartment – the door of which she jammed with furniture and a metal ladder – during the protests on Jan. 29, is survived by two daughters.

“Nathalie stood out in our online class at the beginning of the year for two reasons,” said Myron Belkind, a professorial lecturer in the Graduate School of Political Management and a longtime Associated Press reporter, editor and bureau chief. “She was an outstanding student who always contributed to the weekly class discussions and produced an outstanding portfolio for the class.”

Mr. Belkind said he and the more than 100 students in the course Ms. Atalla took last spring, Advanced Writing for Strategic Public Relations, were worried when she lost her Internet connection during the protests and was out of touch for several weeks.

“The students prepared ‘Welcome back’ messages that she saw as soon as the Internet connection was restored,” Mr. Belkind said. “We were so very grateful that she could rejoin us for the rest of the course, which she completed with a top grade of an A.”

Though her fellow students and professors only knew her for a brief time, Ms. Atalla made an enormous impression on them.

“We are saddened not only because of the loss to her family, but also because she had such a promising career ahead of her,” Mr. Belkind said. “She was a standout.”

Friends and colleagues beyond the university community left an outpouring of comments on various social networks for Ms. Atalla, who was marketing manager at LINK Development.

“Wrote your name, Nathalie, on an Egyptian flag and waved it real high on stage today at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference,” tweeted Irini Raafat, LINK Development’s managing director.

“Lesson learned from Nathalie, may she rest in peace: excel at what you do, have the courage and determination to work towards your goals,” added another friend.

Another colleague and friend pointed out that LINK Development had won “Microsoft country partner of the year for the second time in a row” based on Ms. Atalla’s work. “We owe you,” he tweeted.

According to her Facebook page, Ms. Atalla had a variety of hobbies, including dancing, running, scuba diving, boating and swimming. One of the 129 things she listed on a section of her profile was GW.

On her Twitter handle – where she identified herself as “Passionate about PR and IT. A believer in the power of women. Love life. Hungry for knowledge” – Ms. Atalla shared a wide range of information, from her running times to news about Egypt to inspirational words.

One person who was inspired is the Cairo-based Beco G., who wrote about Ms. Atalla in his blog post, “For you I will.”

“I’ve thought a zillion times before starting to write this post. I simply don’t know what to write,” Beco began, referring to Ms. Atalla, whom he called “a very good friend,” as Nato.

“Nato was the type of person who would allow herself to be down only long enough to gather enough energy and strength to stand up stronger with more will and energy to go forth,” he wrote. “She would gracefully stand up, smile, tie her hair back, and start moving forward like nothing had happened, like nothing could stand in her way.”

Beco noted several things he learned from Ms. Atalla, including a status update he said Ms. Atalla posted on her Google profile: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.”

“It was because of that statement I landed my current job,” he said, noting that he saw the status message as he was sending a resume to a hiring manager. After seeing Ms. Atalla’s update, Beco decided to present his resume in a different light. “During the interview I did everything I never did in interviews before,” he said.

Beco, who was already planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, decided to dedicate the climb to the memory of Ms. Atalla.

“Nato, you have always been a symbol of positive energy, grace and perfection,” he wrote. “I know they say that no one is perfect, but I also know they have not met you!”

According to Larry Parnell, director of  Strategic Public Relations program, Ms. Atalla was the “ideal profile of an online student for the program.” 

“She took advantage of the Internet to access our program and worked diligently at it -- despite tremendous and well documented obstacles -- to succeed,” he said. “All of us in the program will miss her and revere her memory. She is an example for us all to follow.”

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