University readies for families, alumni

Campus officials expect 2,500 to 3,000 visitors for GW’s first Colonials Weekend, featuring events with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and comedian Jay Leno, various performances and outdoor activities.

The University had separate family and alumni weekends in the past, but after GW cancelled Alumni Weekend last year because of September 11, planning began for the joint event.

“As a result of last year’s cancellation, we wanted to do something even more interesting,” Director of Parent Services Rodney Johnson said. “And I think we have.”

About 2,000 visitors attended Family Weekend last year, and similar numbers were expected for Alumni weekend.

Jay Leno, host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” will headline the weekend with two Smith Center performances Saturday night.

“Colonials Weekend is a better mechanism to showcase the University to all of its constituents,” said Associate Vice President for Student Academic Support Services Michael Gargano.

The University sold all 9,000 tickets for Leno’s two Saturday performances in the Smith Center. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show were gone over a month ago, while the 10 p.m. show sold out about two weeks ago, Gargano said.

Past performers at Family Weekend have included Ray Charles and the Beach Boys.

Student Activities Center Director Laura Taddeucci said the University chose Leno because he appeals to a broad audience.

“This year we tried to find an entertainer that was trans-generational, someone who could appeal to the students, the parents and the alumni,” Taddeucci said.

Johnson called Leno “one of the hottest comedians in the country.”

Officials said the two weekends were combined this year so students can build networking connections with alumni.

“People don’t come back for the programs, glossy brochures or nice hotels, but for they come back for the people,” said Keith Betts, executive director of the Alumni House.

Some students said they are looking forward to spending time with family this weekend.

“I am actually excited to see my old friends and family because I haven’t seen them since I started school,” freshman Kate Hobart said.

“We’re going to see Leno, we’re going to a nice brunch in Georgetown at Nathan’s,” sophomore Daniel Scher said. “We saw Leno live in L.A. It was a good performance, so I think he’ll remember us.”

“I’m just waiting for the stuff (my parents are) bringing me, like food and money,” freshman Rob Pauls said.

Other students said they are not happy about hosting their parents for the weekend.

“It’s just a great burden to entertain your parents for the weekend,” sophomore Alexis Perkins said. “I think the only reason my mother’s coming is to see Jay Leno.”

Despite the Alumni Weekend’s cancellation last year, all hotels allowed the University to refund reservations or transfer them to this year, said Associate Director of Advancement Stacey Martin.

She said nine hotels with discounted rates for the weekend, including the GW Inn, Washington Marriott and Ritz Carlton, were sold out by mid-July. GW then added eight more hotels at discounted rates. Since GW books blocks of rooms a year in advance, the University is given special rates, Martin said.

“We talked about Colonials Weekend so much at Colonial Inauguration that parents booked hotels immediately,” Gargano said.

Students and parents said they are excited about the upcoming weekend despite nearby shootings in Maryland and Virginia.

This is the fourth year that the Office of Parent Services had a leading role in the weekend, but Johnson said little concern has been brought to his attention.

Superintendent of Montgomery County, Doctor Jerry Weast, is slated to speak about education Saturday at the annual Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s New Direction Conference: Keeping Ahead of the Times.

“The conference’s purpose is to offer an opportunity for a blending of research and sharing of information amongst people in the education field,” said John Rosser, director of Alumni Relations.

Rodney said although Weast will keep his original agenda, he suspects Weast will address the shootings during a question and answer period following his speech.

Other events for the weekend include Octoberfest, which is geared toward children of alumni and younger siblings of GW students. Held at the Mount Vernon Quad, it will include face painting, hay rides, pumpkin carving, cider and music. The University Barbecue and X-treme Madness are also expected to be a hit with both students and guests, officials said.

Students whose parents cannot come to Colonials Weekend can also take advantage of campus events.

“My parents can’t come,” freshman Udai Shakour said. “But I am going to take this opportunity to catch up on my studying and get some free food.”

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