Actress Kerry Washington had offers to attend several conservatory schools for theater, but wanted a liberal arts education that only GW could offer, she said at an Alumni Weekend event in the Marvin Center Saturday.
The GW alumna – who starred in such films as “Ray,” “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Fantastic Four” – discussed with Alan Wade, interim chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, how her education at GW helped her career.
“I approach my work as a social scientist,” said Washington, who graduated in 1998. “There is an unfortunate dichotomy where we tell people you either have to be creative or smart.”
The Bronx, N.Y., native said she faced many obstacles as a rising actress in New York City. Washington said it was important to be persistent.
“Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and think like you deserve it,” she said.
The discussion was not entirely serious, as Washington frequently exchanged laughs with Wade, her former professor. At one point, when asked about her favorite curse word, she bashfully said it was “fuck.”
At the end of the interview, representatives of the GW Black Alumni Association presented Washington with the “Making Impact” award. Washington also received the GW Alumni Association’s Recent Alumni Achievement Award at a ceremony on Thursday evening with fellow distinguished alumni.
“Kerry, in particular, had a good experience here at GW,” said Matt Lindsay, director of alumni communications. “We’re very excited to have her back.”
Director of Alumni Relations Andrew Kaufteil said it was a little easier this year to get big-name alumni to return to campus and noted a growing presence of such alumni in recent years.
“Kerry Washington is the best example of that,” Kaufteil said. “Once you get a couple of these big names it becomes a very exciting event.”
In addition to big-name speakers, officials planned numerous other events for alumni such as tours of campus, book signings, musical entertainment by student performing groups, and receptions with faculty, staff and fellow alumni.
Planning for the weekend began as soon as last year’s weekend ended, Kaufteil said. More than 200 people sit on undergraduate planning committees, communicating with fellow alumni and encouraging fundraising.
“The whole University is engaged at some level,” he said.
Although the University did not release official numbers on the fundraising generated by the weekend, Kaufteil said they raised millions of dollars from alumni in reunion classes.