Annual honor recognizes dedicated alumni volunteers.
By James Irwin
When he first started thinking about college, Ken Chaletzky received a piece of advice from his father.
“He told me not to plan on living at home—that 50 percent of what I would learn would come from the classroom, the other 50 percent would come from being on my own,” Mr. Chaletzky, B.B.A. ’71, said Wednesday night at the 54th annual Alumni Outstanding Service Awards.
Mr. Chaletzky was one of six GW graduates honored this year with the GW Alumni Association’s highest annual award for service. A former advertising manager, business manager and production manager of The Hatchet during his undergraduate years, today he is the founder, president and CEO of Copy General and serves on the Dean's Board of Advisors at the School of Business and on the board of Hatchet Publications Inc.
His father’s advice, he said, was sound.
“As is often the case, [he] was right,” Mr. Chaletzky said. “Perhaps more than most people, GW has been part of just about every important event in my life.”
Howard Tischler, right, and School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean David Dolling share a moment prior to Wednesday's ceremony. (Dave Scavone/For GW Today)
That sentiment was a common theme as Mr. Chaletzky, Graduate School of Education and Human Development Associate Professor Sylven Beck, Ed. D. ’81; former GW Alumni Association President Laura Taddeucci Downs, B.A. ’92, M.A. ’95; Board of Trustees member Allan From, B.B.A. ’72; School of Engineering and Applied Science Hall of Fame member Howard Tischler, M.S. ’80; and Scholastic Asia President Frank Wong, B.A. ’79, were honored in a ceremony at the Marvin Center.
“Tonight’s awardees contribute to our culture of service by recruiting our students into their industries, they provide career mentoring, they lead our advisory boards and councils,” George Washington President Steven Knapp said. “These are among the many services they perform on behalf of the university.”
In acceptance speeches filled with humor and nostalgia, the recipients used personal stories to explain the evolution of their ties to GW. Ms. Downs, a former student-athlete and staff member, said it is the people who make her relationship with the university so fulfilling. Giving back to GW has required support along the way, said Mr. Tischler, thanking his family, friends, colleagues and fellow members of the SEAS National Advisory Council. GW, Mr. From said, allowed a young man from the segregated South of the 1950s and 60s to see the world.
“This school gave me the opportunity to explore,” he said. “And for that I’m forever grateful.”
Mr. Wong, a member of the Elliott School of International Affairs’ International Council, recalled how a seminar at GW—the historiography of the Chinese Communist Party—proved beneficial more than two decades later as he built his career in Asia.
“It was an advanced graduate seminar, and I was the only undergrad in the class,” he said. “We wrote one paper every week, comparing how different historians would look at the same event and have different interpretations. Twenty-some-odd years later, when I was sitting down with Chinese government officials, I was always able to surprise them with how much I knew about Chinese Communist Party history. I would tell them, ‘Well you know the correct version, but I know the complete version from GW.’”
Dr. Beck, who received the Jane Lingo Alumni Outstanding Service Award—presented to a faculty or staff member who is a GW graduate—has studied or worked at the university for more than 38 years. She dreamed of being a teacher, and in 1977, when she was looking to begin her new life in Washington by transferring her doctoral coursework from Columbia University Teachers College, GW was there to help when other universities were not.
“The outlook was grim,” she said. “Four courses matched to transfer, and the remainder of my coursework would have to be repeated—until I arrived on this campus. GW gave me credit for two-and-a-half years of coursework, and I gave GW three-and-a-half decades of service. Deal.”
From left, Laura Taddeucci Downs, Allan From, Ken Chaletzky, GW President Steven Knapp, Frank Wong, Howard Tischler, Sylven Beck and GW Alumni President Steve Frenkil. (Dave Scavone/For GW Today)