President LeBlanc Addresses GW Community in New York

Dr. LeBlanc relayed his priorities for the university at a reception for alumni, donors, students who will start at the university in fall 2018 and their families.

May 18, 2018


Bella Sauma, who will start at GW in fall 2018, and her father, Joe Sauma, M.B.A. ’89, talk about his time at the GWSB during the New York City reception with Dr. LeBlanc. (Photos by Ben Solomon)

By Julia Parmley

Members of GW’s largest alumni and parent network outside of the Washington, D.C., region gathered in Midtown Manhattan to learn about George Washington University President Thomas J. LeBlanc’s vision for GW.

The event on May 9 in New York City marked the fifth in the university’s series of community receptions around the country featuring Dr. LeBlanc.

The president shared his five initial priorities with more than 400 guests including alumni, donors, families and members of the Class of 2022. These priorities developed as Dr. LeBlanc met with members of the GW community and identified areas of collective aspiration.

Among the attendees were GW Board of Trustees members Gabbi Baker, B.B.A. ’13, and George W. Wellde Jr., M.B.A. ’76; GW Alumni Association President Venessa M. Perry, M.P.H. ’99, who delivered opening remarks; and Anne LeBlanc, the wife of Dr. LeBlanc. The university also hosted a private donor reception featuring remarks from Dr. LeBlanc and Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Donna Arbide.

During the broader community reception, Dr. LeBlanc outlined his strategic initiatives for GW and shared recent progress on his priority of enhancing the undergraduate student experience. The GW Board of Trustees recently voted to modify the university’s dining plans beginning fall 2018, which will increase dining cash amounts and will directly link students’ needs for dining funds by taking into account living arrangements, regardless of class year.

Dr. LeBlanc also shared some highlights from his first nine months as president, including a campus town hall with the President of the Republic of France Emmanuel Macron for GW students, which Dr. LeBlanc described as a true “only-at-GW” moment.

During the Q & A portion of the program, Dr. LeBlanc addressed university ranking systems, saying that while they are important his focus is to make changes that meaningfully improve the student experience and overall university culture.

These steps, implemented effectively, will likely affect measurable ranking factors including freshman retention rate, six-year graduation rate, class size and the percentage of alumni giving. Dr. LeBlanc also noted GW’s strong reputational score based on a survey of university presidents and provosts and high school guidance counselors around the country was a positive indicator.

Former GW Board of Trustees member and donor Amanda Fugazy, B.A. ’95, spoke with Dr. LeBlanc about their shared passion for improving the student experience at GW.

As an undergraduate, Ms. Fugazy chaired the GW Program Board, an experience she describes as “terrific” in part because it’s how she met her husband, Scott Brennan, B.B.A. ’95. She continues to work on enhancing student life as a member of the Division of Student Affairs Advisory Council.

“GW had so much going on for students at all times, and that’s why I remain so loyal to GW,” said Ms. Fugazy. “I’m very impressed with President LeBlanc’s commitment to the student experience.”


Former GW Board of Trustees member Amanda Fugazy, B.A. ’95, shares Dr. LeBlanc's passion for improving the student experience. 

The New York reception was just one of several GW events donor Joe Sauma, M.B.A. ’89, has attended over the past few months with his daughter Bella Sauma, who will be a freshman in fall 2018 in the School of Business. Ms. Sauma said one of the reasons she chose to attend GW was of her father’s positive experience at GWSB.

“I’m trying to follow in his footsteps,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be in a city school, and D.C. seemed like the perfect place to be.”

Now that his daughter is a Colonial, Mr. Sauma said he decided to get more involved with the university by joining the Family Philanthropy Board and engaging as a judge and mentor with the GW New Venture Competition. He said he likes Dr. LeBlanc’s vision for the future of his alma mater and the new opportunities it will offer his daughter.

“It’s great to see a new fresh outlook on our university,” he said. “My daughter will benefit from the new experience for students.”

Liam Ruddy, who will be a freshman in fall 2018 in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, attended the reception along with his parents, Chris and Josefa Ruddy, to meet alumni and “get their perspective on GW.” Liam Ruddy is considering majoring in political science, which in part inspired his decision to attend GW. “The location of Washington, D.C., is perfect for political science,” he said. “You can’t go wrong.”

Ms. Ruddy said she and her husband thought GW was a great choice for her son.

“The world is open to you once you graduate from there, and you’re exposed to so much with the curriculum and the location,” she said. “We’re very happy with his decision.”


New York City marked the fifth in the university’s series of community receptions around the country featuring Dr. LeBlanc.

As he meets with alumni, families and donors around the country, Dr. LeBlanc told the crowd he continually receives positive feedback about GW, and he wants that feeling to permeate throughout the GW community.

“We’ve come to appreciate how wonderful GW is, and we want to make sure that you hear from us often enough so you will always know how great this place is and how much we are trying to make it even better in the future,” he said.

The university plans to host additional receptions around the globe with Dr. LeBlanc during the 2018-19 academic year.