By Lisa Conley-Kendzior
Gennaro "Gene" Colabatistto, M.S. ‘96, built a life on hard work, determination, a commitment to service and a bit of luck. But Gene and his wife, Constance, don’t want young people with talent to rely on luck alone. The Colabatisttos had previously created the Gennaro A. Colabatistto Family Scholarship to support student veterans in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Now, the Colabatisttos are opening doors to opportunity for future generations through the Colabatistto Endowed Scholarship in Engineering, which will offer financial support to undergraduate engineering students at GW in perpetuity. They created the fund by designating the School of Engineering and Applied Science as a beneficiary of their individual retirement account (IRA).
“My wife and I both came from families with a socioeconomic background that would not have allowed us to go to college unless we had help,” said Gene, who recently retired as president of defense and security at CAE, overseeing a global defense training services business. “We both went to college with the help of the government, and the military in particular.”
Gene Colabatistto received an ROTC scholarship from the University of Southern California and moved to Washington, D.C., in the 1980s while on active duty in the Marine Corps. During Operation Desert Storm, he served as representative for intelligence systems and satellite and airborne reconnaissance. He transitioned to the Marine Corps Forces Reserve and in 1992 enrolled in GW’s electrical engineering master’s program with financial support from his employer.
“I started to realize that to really be an innovator, it would take more than just being an aerospace engineer,” he said. “My employer was trying to develop their younger engineers because engineering had an aging workforce, even back then. So the stars aligned for me -- the right program and the right discipline in the right place.”
During his time on campus, Gene discovered the meaning of “only at GW.”
“I learned that a university is more than just education. There is a role for it at the highest levels of government and in the nation and in policymaking,” he said. “GW has a great engineering school, but is also in this unique position in public affairs and policy. What a powerful combination.”
In 2015, Gene and Constance established the scholarship to support engineering students who are veterans, active-duty military or members of the reserves.
“We thought that was a higher calling for us,” he said of the emphasis on military service. “We really wanted to target the scholarship because we thought that there was a national security implication for all of us.”
A Yellow Ribbon Program Participant, GW, which serves more than 1,500 military-affiliated students, has been an annual recipient of the Military Friendly Award and is also annually recognized as a Military Times "Best for Vets" higher education institution.
Gene has continued a life of service, serving as chair of GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science National Advisory Council and volunteering as an Angel Flight and Homeland Security/First Responder pilot.
More than anything, Gene wants to help those who need it the most.
“We really wanted to focus on those folks who have the least amount of luck on their side. We feel so lucky, and we want to give people the same opportunity,” Gene said.
He wants future engineers to know: “You can completely change your life, the direction of your life and your family's and get to where you want to go because the help is there.”
Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about how GW is expanding opportunity for the next generation of leaders.