Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fl.) and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg schmoozed with alumni to discuss D.C. congressional representation and GW networking opportunities Tuesday night on Capitol Hill.
The well-received black-tie event, which was largely a push for alumni donations, was catered with spirits and hors d’oeuvres in an elaborate caucus room with chandeliers and a string quartet.
Stearns, a member of GW’s class of ’63, emphasized the University’s role in his life to a crowd of about 100 congressional staffers and policymakers.
The list of alumni in attendance included research, think tank and government employees who are part of a recent GW initiative to earn more federal funding. Five U.S. senators are GW graduates, according to the Alumni Relations. Stearns asked the crowd, gathered in the Canon House Office Building, to act as delegates for GW in their public service roles.
“You need to speak positively of GW and your experience,” Stearns said.
Trachtenberg said the University is “stronger” than it has ever been and applications are “breathtaking.”
“How can I put this gently?” Trachtenberg asked. “Nobody here would get into the University today.”
As the alumni laughed, Trachtenberg stressed the need for public and private funds. Citing the $96 million the University provides in financial aid to students each year, he reminded alumni that their donations help future students afford the GW experience.
GW has reached more than 80 percent of its $500 million goal in the Centuries Campaign. Private donations for 2001 totaled about $40.3 million, an 8 percent drop from 1999, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Schools nationwide can lobby their representatives for federal funding for programs and projects that develop and advance a university. GW cannot petition a voting House representative because none exist for D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is the District’s delegate in the House, but she does not have a vote.
“I want to ensure that GWU is heard on Capitol Hill,” Stearns wrote in an e-mail after the event.
Trachtenberg has found lobbyists like Stearns to advocate GW interests on Capitol Hill.
Trachtenberg currently sits on the board of D.C. Vote, a non-profit organization that argues it is unconstitutional that the District’s 500,000 residents are not represented in Congress.
Many alumni said they showed up to network and express thanks to GW for changing their lives.
“You’ve definitely increased the value of my degree,” Susan Gruskiewicz an ’87 graduate, said to Trachtenberg.
Leslie and Kathy Megyer said they came because GW remains an important part of their lives.
“We met in the basement of the Lisner Auditorium in ’62,” Leslie said.
Between both Megyers, the couple has five degrees from GW spanning two decades.
“We have fond memories of GW,” Leslie said. Kathy added that the couple still attends GW functions, like speakers at the Law School
GW has hosted fundraising functions across the country that drew large turnouts in Phoenix, Ariz., San Francisco, Calif., and New York, Trachtenberg said.