Seniors follow in family members’ footsteps as legacy of alumni graduate

While some of the seniors graduating Sunday may be the first in their families to ever step foot on the GW campus, there are others following in the footsteps of their parents or siblings. These are legacy students, people for whom spending four years in Foggy Bottom is somewhat of a family tradition.

Legacy students are those who have family members, such as parents, grandparents or siblings, currently enrolled or who have graduated from GW, said Kevin Ost-Vollmers, associate director of Advancement and Parent Projects.

“Seeing my brother graduate from the engineering school makes me very proud,” said junior Ryad Darweesh, “Knowing that it is a tough school with a sturdy curriculum, I think it is very respectable.”

Ryad Darweesh’s brother Ragy Darweesh will soon graduate from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Ryad Darweesh said his brother Ragy plans to work for the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company after graduation.

“It’s going to be hard seeing him leave and do his own thing because I am so used to being around him and living the college life alongside him,” Ryad Darweesh said.

Some Commencement attendees will watch a sibling graduate, while other audience members will see their children receive a degree from their own alma mater.

“I get chills thinking about my daughter graduating,” said Mitch Blaser, a 1973 graduate from GW’s School of Business. Blaser has two daughters at GW – Ali, a senior in the School of Business, and Heather, a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Blaser is currently chairman of the board of advisors for the School of Business and has been involved with the school’s Freshman Year Development Program and its Career Center.

“(Ali) worked really hard and has had incredible life experiences,” said Blaser, who will hand out awards at the School of Business’s ceremony.

Blaser attended GW during the Vietnam War, which he said was a very important aspect of his college experience.

“Everybody was a rebel; you would get tear-gased just being on campus,” said Blaser, recalling how once he unknowingly entered Marvin Center after tear-gas had been sprayed.

Compared to now, Blaser said the GW campus had an entirely different atmosphere when he lived and took classes in Foggy Bottom, citing the military draft, student protesters and the moratorium to end the war in Vietnam as significant differences.

“It was the first time that I felt like what was going on in D.C. was affecting the world,” Blaser said, adding that today represents a whole new environment for seniors.

“There’s more of a focus on scholastic and career development,” he said. “Back then as a senior, you might have had an internship (and) choosing a career wasn’t completely random, but it was close to that.”

Blaser’s daughter, Ali, has “mixed emotions” about graduating. “There’s a lot to look forward to, but (GW) has been my home for four years,” she said. “Graduating is very bittersweet.”

“My dad would always tell stories about going to college in D.C.,” said Ali Blaser, who added that her family legacy was a factor in her decision to come to GW. “It’s nice to say that I went to the same school as my dad.”

Ali Blaser said she has also enjoyed having her younger sister, freshman Heather Blaser, at GW. “It’s been amazing to live down the street from (Heather),” she said. “It will be weird to watch her graduate from college, but it will be special to come back and visit then.”

The GW Alumni Association and the GW Parents Campaign will host a Commencement Legacy Family Reception for graduates and their families May 18. The event will take place in the afternoon on the second floor of the Media and Public Affairs Building.

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