For alumni, Commencement weekend marks continuing relationship with GW

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Alumni are encouraged to attend Commencement activities every year, part of the University's pledge to keep them engaged. As officials raise money through the $1 billion campaign, Commencement is also an opportunity to bring in alumni donations.

Commencement weekend isn’t just for the Class of 2015.

Alumni who are included in Commencement weekend events, planned by the Alumni Association and alumni relations office, say they are glad to reconnect with their alma mater and make connections with new graduates or help them find jobs. And in the middle of the University’s $1 billion campaign, Commencement weekend could also be a time for them to make donations to GW.

Alumni who graduated from GW 50 or more years ago, or who are over 72 years old, are also always invited back for the weekend and a luncheon after Commencement. A champagne toast for legacy graduates of the Class of 2015 and their family who are alumni will be held this Friday.

Alumni Association board members were asked to attend Commencement ceremonies at the group’s meeting last week, part of the year-long theme of “Colonials helping Colonials,” said Michael LaPlace, a member of the Alumni Association’s executive board.

“We’re trying to be a friendly presence representing the alumni,” LaPlace said. “Graduates should understand that Commencement isn’t the end of their relationship with GW: It’s really the beginning. Being part of GW is part of being a worldwide network of alumni. It can, in a lot of ways, create opportunities.”

LaPlace said Commencement is also an opportune time to remind alumni of their own graduations and encourage them to donate to the University. He said he would also attend Commencement this year.

He said alumni will greet graduates in the Alumni House on F Street and in University Yard to officially welcome them into the alumni community over the course of Commencement weekend.

“It’s always a good time to encourage them to donate,” LaPlace said. “It’s a lifelong relationship because the University can continue to enrich their lives beyond when they get their degrees.”

Buddy Lesavoy, a member of the Alumni Association’s executive board and a triple alumnus, said he and his family have come back to campus for two of the past three Commencement weekends to meet graduates. Lesavoy said some of his strongest connections are with alumni and faculty.

“In more recent years we’ve tried to take advantage of that network to be helpful for mentorship before, during and after college and during the Commencement process,” Lesavoy said.

Lesavoy said the University will always be “near and dear to his heart” because he has kept friends from his graduating class and now shares an alma mater with his children. He donates to the University and has hosted send-off dinners for incoming students at his home.

“There’s an overall significance and emotion of having your own offspring graduate from the University that, in my case, I love three times over. Now I’m proud to say we have five GW degrees in my family,” Lesavoy said.

Alumni Association president Steve Frenkil focused his address at last year’s University-wide Commencement on the theme of alumni helping past and current students by participating in networking events and connecting with other graduates on social media platforms. Frenkil did not return a request for comment.

The University has pushed for a stronger connection between alumni and students, hosting local receptions for admitted students and offering dinners for current students throughout the year.

As part of their efforts to get young alumni in the habit of donating to GW, officials hosted “Flag Day” for the first time last month — a two-day fundraising blitz aimed at bringing in donations from current students and young alumni. The push brought in $41,000.

The Senior Class Gift Campaign also encourages the graduating class to make gifts to the University, which experts say is key to bringing in more donations later. As of last month, about 40 percent of seniors participated in the campaign, which has a goal of 60 percent participation.

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