By Nick Erickson
Thirty years earlier, Elizabeth (Berberian) Oliveri, B.A. ’96, was a George Washington University first-year student herself roaming the halls of an unfamiliar place that would soon be the setting of one of her most unforgettable life chapters.
And on Sunday morning, it came full circle as she moved her daughter, GW School of Business first-year student Marielle, into that same building—Thurston Hall.
Although the interior looks quite different after the building’s recently completed two-plus-year transformation project, the memories all came bursting back. She’s thrilled Marielle now has that same opportunity, especially being an inaugural resident kicking off Thurston Hall’s newest chapter that is complete with modern community spaces and amenities throughout the building.
“I think there's a real special feeling for anyone who walked through the doors,” said Oliveri, who is now a teacher living in Manhasset, N.Y. “Whether we had community space like this or not, you feel like you're part of the community, and that's what makes it so special.”
[video:https://vimeo.com/742400237 width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox_title:Thurston: Cribs]
Through the power of philanthropy, the reimagined Thurston Hall carries on the legacy of the numerous alumni who have called the longtime staple on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus home. Named spaces and a dedicated mosaic donor wall display the support from the people who made such an undertaking possible.
Other alumni of Thurston Hall have felt a similar connection as Oliveri has to the building. Recently, the Class of 1981 came together to honor beloved alumnus Leon Rosenman, B.B.A. ’81, with a named courtyard terrace in the building.
Supporters of the project are helping to provide students with a healthy and modern residence hall for living and learning. The renovation was designed to maintain what Thurston Hall does best—build community for generations of GW students who then go on to make positive and impactful change in the world.
“When you tell people you went to GW or you come across some [alumni] there's just a real feeling and connection,” Oliveri said. “I’m just so proud that I graduated from here.”
First-year computer science major Ashley Colatarci is one such student who was already taking advantage of the upgrades Thurston Hall has to offer.
On her first full morning as a Foggy Bottom resident, Colatarci brought her yogurt parfait up to the top-floor penthouse to take in the 360-degree views of Washington, D.C. Hailing from Long Hill, N.J., Colatarci moved in on Saturday and decided to enjoy her breakfast with the sight of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building straight ahead and the Washington Monument rising above the buildings to her right.
When she was first choosing where to study, Colatarci, who grew up less than an hour west of Manhattan, didn’t think she’d want to attend an urban institution. But after talking with GW alumni at a New York City recruiting event, she figured she’d give the school a visit. And once she got to D.C. and experienced for herself the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital, she knew there was nowhere else she wanted to go.
Now all moved in, she is reveling in her decision to attend GW and marveled at how much she gets to see from the top of her new residence hall.
“It's actually amazing,” she said. “I love seeing all the different buildings, and you can see into the office building, and places like the Department of Treasury and the monuments are nearby. I love being able to just walk to and from those places. It's awesome.”
Despite mostly growing up in Houston, fellow first-year student Camil Walkiewicz has spent the past five years living just north of D.C. in Bethesda, Md. His father, Eric Yvon, is an associate professor of medicine at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences. While he’s had close access to both GW and D.C., the biochemical engineering major couldn’t help but to walk around Thurston Hall on Sunday morning and explore the new building he now occupies. He gave the renovation project his stamp of approval.
“It kind of feels like I'm staying in a fancy hotel and that I’m on vacation or something,” he said. “I mean, it’s just really nice.”
The broader GW community can share in the excitement and see the updated residence hall by touring the new building at the Thurston Hall Open House on Oct. 1 during Alumni and Families Weekend.
GW President Mark S. Wrighton, Provost Christopher Alan Bracey and Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Colette Coleman, among other leadership, greeted students moving in—as well as their families—outside Thurston Hall on Sunday morning before heading over to other residence halls both on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses. Wrighton’s dog, Spike, accompanied him on his morning route and throughout the halls, providing a much-welcomed break from the unpacking and assembling.
Move-In is an annual tradition signifying the start of another academic year. Throughout the week, vehicles with eager students about to begin their GW journeys and excited parents armed with suitcases, bedding and assembly tools flood the Foggy Bottom streets and Mount Vernon campus.
As they get settled before classes officially start on Aug. 29, students have also had the opportunity to partake in Orientation Week and Weeks of Welcome events on campus.