Olga Corey never got to fulfill an invitation to students to stay at her place when GW closed residence halls for International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests. She also didn’t live to see the University reverse its decision and the reason why – Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on American landmarks that canceled the international financial conferences.
The 78 year-old, who lived in Foggy Bottom for more than 30 years, died in her sleep Sept. 9 in her Circle Arms apartment. A former public relations specialist, Corey was known for befriending students and opposing the actions of University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.
“She cared so much about the GW community’s relationship with the students,” Student Association President Roger Kapoor said. “That’s why she was just such a beacon of hope.”
Kapoor recounted the first time he met Corey, who often sported an “I love GW students” sweatshirt, for lunch after he was elected SA president last spring.
“Those four words just summed her up as a person, just somebody with no exception and nothing hidden,” Kapoor said. “She’s going to be well missed.”
Originally from Chicago, Corey held posts in the communications offices of the U.S. Office of Education and the AFL-CIO in the 1960s and ’70s, the Environmental Protection Agency for 12 years spanning three decades and was chief of staff for Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) from 1994 to 1995.
“I’m from Chicago as well, so we often would talk about Chicago and its history,” Kapoor said. “She wanted me to update her on who was running for governor.”
He said when Corey arrived at lunch that day, without even meeting him, she made him switch chairs because she claimed “in Chicago you never sit with your back to the door in case the mob came in.”
“That’s the way she was; she was always aware,” Kapoor said.
While many said she was known for her ability to bring people together, Corey may have been more widely known for her car, a 1971 Chevrolet Malibu she bought new more than 30 years ago.
“My fondest memories of her are just random conversations or times that she drove me someplace,” said Jeff Marootian, a 2001 GW graduate who worked with Corey on several projects as SA vice president for community affairs.
Donna Fletcher, a 1970 GW graduate who worked with Corey at the EPA, teared up as she recalled when Corey worked on Capitol Hill for Moseley-Braun.
“Everyone’s in their Lexuses and Beamers and she comes tooling in in her ’71 Malibu,” Fletcher said.
Recently, between jaunts to the Delaware beach and frequenting SA events, Corey was active in the Foggy Bottom Association and worked as the advertising manager for the group’s newsletter The Foggy Bottom News since April 1999. She chaired the FBA’s 40th Anniversary Committee and scheduled several events for a celebration of neighborhood heritage in July, including a Potomac boat ride.
“Olga was by far the best person to bring people together, because everybody loved her,” Marootian said. “Her genuine concern was uniting people, and she did it wonderfully. It’s a loss to Foggy Bottom but it’s a loss to the GW student community as well.”
-Russ Rizzo and Katie Warchut contributed to this report.