Gift to honor local legend

Seniors have voted to donate a portion of their class gift to a scholarship that helps pay for textbook costs and a plaque, both in honor of Old Man Schenley, a campus mainstay who died last year.

The Senior Class Gift Committee announced last Thursday that the legacy gift of the Class of 2009 will honor the late Eddie Bieber, affectionately called “Old Man Schenley” by many in the GW community. Bieber remained a resident in the Schenley Hall decades after the University purchased the building and made it a residence hall.

“I think most people will be really happy about it,” said senior David Anderson, the class gift coordinator. “It’s something the class can rally around.”

The legacy gift will not come directly from student donations – which will be applied toward personalized gifts of the students’ choice. Instead, the scholarship and plaque will be funded by alumni Alan Lafer and Laurie Lowe, who will match the sum of all student donations this year, Anderson said.

The bulk of the matched funds will go to the textbook scholarship, which will be available to students already on financial aid, Anderson said. They have not finalized how this money will be doled out.

Members of the Class of 2009 provided suggestions for the class gift, which were then reviewed by Anderson and a committee of 30 seniors, who independently shortened the list to 10. The committee then decided on five final options in consultation with Zach Briton, the assistant director for student and young alumni giving, and Adrienne Rulnick, associate vice president for Development and Alumni Relations.

Seniors voted on this list during a four-day period beginning on Oct. 14. Other options included support for renovations at the Gelman Library, a fund for unpaid internships, money for campus green initiatives and support for ongoing renovations at the Smith Center. The Old Man Schenley gift received 32 percent of the vote, Anderson said.

“It pretty much dominated,” he said, adding that about 30 percent of seniors participated in the poll.

Bieber moved into Schenley in 1942 and called it home well into his 90s. He could often be found sitting on a bench outside the hall talking to students, telling compelling stories like how he represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics as a cyclist. In the summer of 2007, Bieber died and the University converted his apartment to student housing.

Caitlin Neal-Jones, a senior, said she voted for the gift honoring Old Man Schenley.

“I talked to him once,” she said. “He was great. He totally deserves it.”

Senior Devon Rose said she was surprised at the selection and would have preferred the gift go toward campus green initiatives.

Anderson said that those who are unhappy with the selection can still personally designate where their money will go since only the matching funds from Lafer and Lowe will go toward the Old Man Schenley gift.

Although the committee has raised only $4,590, Anderson emphasized that total participation was a larger focus for the committee, which hopes to get one-third of seniors to participate. Statistics from this stage in previous years were not available.

Anderson said contribution efforts had just begun and would intensify as the academic year continues.

He said, “We really do focus more of our efforts in the spring.”

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