Ralph Cabeaux, a 1949 GW graduate, now lives in the United Kingdom, but the distance from Foggy Bottom did not stop him from attending this year’s Alumni Weekend – he took a boat across the Atlantic in order to attend the event.
“When you go to a university and get the foundation for your future life, it’s a very difficult thing to forget,” Cabeaux said. “It’s a nostalgic trip.”
Cabeaux was not the only one interested in visiting his alma mater last week, as about twice as many people attended Alumni Weekend this year as did last year.
More than 1,000 people participated in the weekend’s events, compared to between 500 and 600 people last year, Director of Reunions Andrew Kaufteil said. A brunch with University President Steven Knapp drew more than 400 people, while last year just 12 alumni attended a similar brunch with former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.
Kaufteil said Knapp was not directly involved in planning Alumni Weekend but that his presence attracted alumni who were less interested in the event in previous years.
The expansion of reunion committees, more extensive marketing and greater collaboration with student organizations and Greek-letter groups also contributed to this year’s increased turnout.
About 120 people attended an Alpha Epsilon Pi reunion event and 60 people went to a black and Latino joint happy hour. Other popular events included a football game sponsored by the LGBT Alumni Association, a Shabbat service at Hillel and receptions for members of the College Republicans and the College Democrats. Many of these events were co-sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations.
The Office of Alumni Relations solicited about $385,000 from alumni over a six-month period of time to help fund the weekend’s festivities. The Board of Trustees agreed to triple the amount of money raised, bringing the total amount raised to about $1.2 million.
Kaufteil said the Office of Advancement is starting to work with student organizations on crafting strategies to solicit donations from alumni.
Trenton Marsh, a GW alumnus, founded the GW Black Alumni Association in 2004 as a way to “strengthen a collective sense of community among black alumni and all alumni.” It also marked the start of fundraising for the GWBAA/Diversity Scholarship.
The College Republicans have not yet collected any donations from alumni but plan to start doing so soon.
“Whether it’s the University soccer team or the College Republicans, people are more likely to give when they give back to something they love instead of just giving a chunk of change to the University,” CR Chairman Chris Brooks said.
Cory Struble, communications director for the CD’s said interacting with alumni can bridge the gap between the professional and the academic worlds.
Struble said the CD’s have raised a small amount of money in alumni donations, but like the CRs, they are only beginning to actively solicit donations.
Overall, 11 percent of alumni currently give back to the University financially, but Kaufteil said he hopes to increase this amount to 20 percent.
Donations by alumni help the University “in every way, in everything (the University) aspires to,” said Laurel Price Jones, vice president for development and alumni relations.
Price Jones appealed to current students to start thinking about giving back to GW.
“It would be impossible (for GW) to continue to rise and to support students the way it has without the support of future alumni,” she said.
Matt Lindsay, director of alumni communications, said Alumni Weekend is about “bringing graduates back to campus and showing them what’s happened here at GW and allowing them to reconnect with friends and have a good time, bringing them back to the glory days.”
Other events included a screening of the film “Breach,” inspired by alumnus Eric O’Neill. There was also a “Back to Thurston” tour.
Alumna Marissa Reyes said the tour was like “stepping back to that first year at GW . it definitely makes me think of some late nights in Thurston, though some I’d admittedly like to forget.”
Elise Kigner contributed to this report.