Seniors give the gift of spirit

Students may never be able to show school spirit at a homecoming football game, but thanks to this year’s senior class gift, GW spirit may get a boost.

As part of its gift to GW, the class of 2008 created the spirit fund – an endowment that will give money to the Spirit Office for activities, events or groups that support GW athletics. Spirit fund money may go to a victory bell, spirit rallies, trips or other spirit events, said senior Chris Rotella, chair of the senior class gift committee.

“(The spirit fund) is a great way to leave the school,” Rotella said.

Senior class gift participation for 2008 hit a record high with more than 24 percent of the class donating to the senior class gift, Rotella said.

“The participation has never been this great,” he said. “There has been a change in the mentality. (Seniors) feel more connected to GW and to the gift.”

Andrew Hill, assistant director of student alumni programs, attributed the increase in senior participation to a greater understanding of the importance of philanthropy in education.

“This year’s committee worked hard to build those types of relationships (among seniors),” Hill said. “They talked about the value of a degree and its connection to a school’s endowments . It’s not so much about the money, but participation. That’s what influences the rankings.”

The committee has raised more than $36,000 so far – $2,000 less than last year’s gift. With another senior class event and graduate week activities, which are traditionally high times of donation, Rotella said they might be able to meet their $50,000 goal.

Some of the money will likely go toward a victory bell that will be built at a central location on campus, but the Spirit Office has ultimate jurisdiction over the allocation.

Nicole Early, director of the Spirit Office, said the victory bell was a great idea.

“We want to continue with the team effort of this committee and support their ideas,” Early said. “The funds have been given to unify the entire student body and to get as many as possible engaged on campus.”

This year, more than 1,000 seniors participated in the online vote and the spirit fund received 60 percent of that vote, Rotella said. Other options included technology and a social-political action fund.

Although a history of senior class gifts has left numerous benches and gardens across GW’s campus, the tradition of endowments arose in 2004 by an initiative from former University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

Last year, seniors created the Campus Green Fund, which allocated money for environmentally conscious changes such as more greenery on campus and energy-efficient light bulbs in residence halls. In 2006, the graduating class established the a project fund to support student organizations focused on community service.

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