Power & Promise Celebrates Scholarships and Fellowships

Donors, students come together at annual recognition dinner.

Marwan Sulaiman, President Knapp and sophomore Zinhle Essamu.
Senior Marwan Sulaiman, left, President Knapp and sophomore Zinhle Essamuah enjoy the reception at Saturday's Power & Promise dinner. (Dave Scavone)
April 07, 2014

By James Irwin

In 2010, after receiving his acceptance letter to the George Washington University, Marwan Sulaiman placed a phone call to his family in Iraq. He had been living in Connecticut for several years and wanted to tell his parents the good news—and the catch that came along with it.

“I was so happy, and they were ecstatic,” Mr. Sulaiman said. “And then I said, ‘Wait, don’t congratulate me yet. I haven’t figured out financial aid.’”

Cost was going to be a major problem for Mr. Sulaiman, who had left the Middle East as a teenager, his family split by war and uncertainty. And then, Mr. Sulaiman received a message that changed his life.

“I woke up with an email saying I had received the Dirk S. Brady Endowed Scholarship Fund that would cover all four years at GW,” said Mr. Sulaiman, now a senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs.

“People had more faith in me than I had in myself.”

Mr. Sulaiman’s story was one of hundreds circulating the room Saturday night at GW’s annual Power & Promise dinner, celebrating benefactors and students. Power & Promise, established by President Steven Knapp, has raised nearly $100 million in scholarships and fellowships since 2009. Recently, it was announced that approximately $15 million of an $80 million gift from the Milken Institute, the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation will be directed to support student financial aid—the largest single contribution ever to the Power & Promise fund.

“None of this would have been possible without the generosity of donors like those we are thanking and celebrating tonight,” Dr. Knapp said.

More than 350 students, staff, trustees and donors attended the dinner, which featured the premiere of the 2014 Power & Promise videoMore than 60 percent of George Washington University students receive financial support, which reduces loan burdens on graduates and helps make higher education accessible to those who might otherwise struggle to afford tuition.

“All of this is a testament of the commitment of the GW community to increasing access to higher education,” Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman said. “No single investment in GW has as great a return as a scholarship.”

Teresa Moran Schwartz, J.D. ’71, the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor Emeritus of Public Interest Law, offered a similar testament, from the perspective of a former scholarship recipient and faculty member. In 1968, after putting her husband through his first two years of law school, Ms. Schwartz decided to enroll in the program as well. The couple received financial aid, allowing them to string together enough money to afford their one overlap year of school.

GW has established 14 new endowed scholarships and fellowships so far this year, including eight class gifts in the Law School as well as the Milken gifts. Expanding these funds, Ms. Schwartz said, is a hallmark of a strong university, creating opportunities for a dynamic student body.

“The importance of scholarship programs and alumni support cannot be overstated,” she said. “For many applicants the choice of a school turns on the availability of financial aid.”

Mr. Sulaiman was one such case. At age 15 he was forced to move from Baghdad to Kurdistan because of the war in Iraq. A year later, he was taken in by a Connecticut family who supported him throughout high school. After receiving his award, he was able to meet Dirk Brady, B.A. ’43, in whose honor the scholarship was created. A refugee from Nazi Germany who immigrated to the United States in 1936, Mr. Brady’s endowed scholarship, established by his family, provides financial aid to students who have fled their home countries because of political, ethnic or religious persecution.

“At the time, I was 19, and he was 93,” Mr. Sulaiman said. “Yet, we had a lot in common, coming from war-torn countries. But that’s not what we talked about; we ended up chatting for a few hours about GW and our favorite moments here.”

Mr. Brady passed away in 2012.

“What he shared with me that day makes me appreciate being here even more,” Mr. Sulaiman said.

To learn how to create an enduring opportunity for generations of future GW students by endowing a scholarship, please contact Matt Banks at [email protected] or 202-994-5125.