Successful GW Engineering Alumnus Champions Giving Back

Thomas J. Doherty, SEAS B.S. ‘89, challenges former scholarship recipients to support future generations.

April 10, 2023

GW Engineering grad Thomas J. Doherty, B.S. '89

Thomas J. Doherty, B.S. '89. (Photo courtesy of Thomas J. Doherty)

Jumping at the opportunity to double his impact, GW Engineering grad Thomas J. Doherty, B.S.  ‘89, dramatically increased his existing scholarship fund for engineering undergraduates with a $500,000 gift that unlocked dollar-for-dollar matching funds as part of the George Washington University’s historic Third Century Scholarship Endowment Match.

His endowed gift greatly expands the scope and reach of his scholarship fund that provides perpetual support for GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) undergraduates with financial need and furthers its progress in diversifying the discipline.

Doherty’s vision for his scholarship support is to encourage more students to study engineering, particularly those wavering because of the rigor. He also hopes to facilitate more diverse representation in a male-dominated field.

 “We don’t have enough engineers in any of the disciplines,” he said. “Too often decisions are being made by a narrow group; we need the broadest possible representation.

“Diversity is so important to how people approach things. Our lives are becoming much more technologically dependent—your phone is a great example. Technology must reflect societal views and perspectives, so your representation needs to be everyone,” Doherty added. “If we just have more people with the same background, things get stagnant.”

Doherty hopes that his gift will inspire and catalyze other alumni, particularly those like him who received scholarship support. Scholarships covered his tuition and allowed him to graduate with a systems engineering degree and only minimal debt, he said. Doherty, from a self-described “relatively modest” background, added that his studies would have been much more difficult without scholarships, and he feels a duty to give back.

“You should pay back the money you didn’t have to spend if you received scholarships,” he said. “If someone did good by you, you should do good by someone else. At age 18, you don’t have what you will have at age 30, 40 or 50. When you can, you should give back so it’s available to the next generation.”

Doherty, recently retired from his position as managing director of asset-based finance at Wells Fargo NYC, has had a long and successful career in financial services. The New Jersey native majored in engineering because of the economic potential, choosing GW as the “best fit for what he wanted,” he said. While most of his fellow students studied civil or electrical engineering, he pursued systems engineering.

“Linear programming was a big part of the systems field, and it’s what I’ve done my entire career,” said Doherty, who earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University after graduating from GW. “Mortgages, maximizing profits—they are just big linear programming problems with goals and constraints.”

Thomas J. Doherty and his wife, Courtney McGuinn. (Photo courtesy of Thomas J. Doherty)

Thomas J. Doherty and his wife, Courtney McGuinn. (Photo courtesy of Thomas J. Doherty)

The multiplier effect of unlocking the Match and the opportunity to help GW promote scholarship giving were key factors in his decision to enhance the Thomas J. Doherty Endowed Scholarship he established in 2011.

Fares Tello, who completed his B.S. in mechanical engineering in 2020, is one of the GW students who has received support from Doherty’s scholarship. “I always dreamed of attending a prestigious school like GW, and this scholarship was integral to that accomplishment. This award helped me and my family beyond measure,” Tello said. After his undergraduate degree, Tello completed his master’s in engineering at GW in 2021, and now works as an engineer at M.C. Dean, Inc.

Other recent Doherty Scholars alumni include a bioengineering doctoral student who founded a summer STEM camp for middle-schoolers, a third-year medical student and two data scientists. 

GW Engineering Dean John Lach said, “Tom leads by example, and his scholarship creates a legacy that will live on in countless future engineers, enabling them to not only attend GW but also to thrive and achieve their full potential while they are here. We are honored to count Tom among our most generous and service-oriented engineering alumni.”

Lach notes that through intentional focus, GW Engineering boasts percentages significantly higher than the national averages of undergraduate engineers who identify as first generation, women or underrepresented minority students. “Tom’s scholarship allows us to accelerate our progress on educating talented future engineers from all walks of life regardless of financial resources.”

Doherty served on the GW Engineering National Advisory Council for almost 10 years and is actively involved in creating an engaged alumni community in New York City.

President Mark S. Wrighton expressed his gratitude to Doherty for his passion for the power of higher education and his leadership in scholarship giving.

“Mr. Doherty’s commitment helps aspiring engineers from all backgrounds attend the George Washington University,” Wrighton said. “We are grateful for his commitment to future generations and that he chose to memorialize his legacy with generous, enduring support for need-based undergraduate scholarships. Considering that we are striving to provide a high quality GW education that is accessible and affordable, I recognize how important need-based financial aid support is in changing the trajectory of our students' lives.”

Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president of development and alumni relations applauds Doherty’s willingness to lend his voice and leverage his network to help GW open doors to more students in addition to his generous giving.

“Tom is an exemplary alumnus, and we are grateful for commitment to ‘paying it forward’ to students who follow in his footsteps. We are incredibly grateful for his steadfast support of GW, of our engineering students, and the engineering profession at large.”

Others interested in opening doors for talented future engineers with financial need are invited to make a gift to the Thomas J. Doherty Endowed Scholarship fund or GW Engineering’s scholarship fund as part of the Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships that charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree.