Interim assistant DSS director dies at 52, remembered as ‘advocate’ for students

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor

Those who knew Kramer said she was committed to ensuring the best for students and always brought a spirit of generosity to her work and those around her.

Leila Kramer, the interim assistant director of Disability Support Services, died unexpectedly earlier this month. She was 52.

Kramer joined the DSS staff in 2016, helping students with their studies, organization skills and time management. A certified life coach, Kramer spent time developing workshops for students to succeed both within and beyond the DSS office.

Those who knew Kramer said she was committed to ensuring the best for students and always brought a spirit of generosity to her work and those around her.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said DSS benefited from Kramer’s service through her dedication to caring for students.

“Leila was a passionate advocate for students,” she said in an email. “She inspired students and colleagues alike to be the best version of themselves.”

She said staff members feel the weight of Kramer’s passing, as officials put together “interim supports” and search for someone to fill the position she has held for several years and used to inspire the students she served.

“The DSS team is heartbroken over Leila’s passing,” she said. “They are like a family, and this is a terrible loss.”

Brown and Alisa Major, the interim director of DSS, emailed students with news of Kramer’s passing earlier this month and offered drop-in sessions with the Counseling and Psychological Support Office as a resource. They said the University’s CARE team is also available to support students impacted by Kramer’s passing.

“Leila was a compassionate professional who saw the work of supporting GW students as a vocation,” the email states. “She was deeply committed to ensuring that students with disabilities had equal access to educational opportunities. She worked tirelessly to advocate for students and did so with a warmth that made her colleagues appreciate having her as a partner.”

Terri West, the senior disability services associate at DSS, said she and Kramer fostered “a great friendship” over the roughly five years they knew each other. West said she remembers Kramer for her generosity and humor, noting memories like the two laughing together in the office and Kramer sharing a cake with her coworkers in celebration of Mardi Gras.

Aside from personal memories, West said Kramer’s ultimate commitment was to her students.

“Leila was dedicated to her DSS students,” she said in an email. “She went above and beyond to make sure they had access to all that was needed in their academic success. I cannot speak enough about her kind spirit and awesome qualities. Such a huge loss.”

Ben Freedman, a junior studying international affairs, said he met Kramer during his freshman year when he sought out help from DSS for managing his workload while coping with attention deficit disorder. Freedman said he met with Kramer for 30 minutes every Thursday to organize his homework and review upcoming assignments, and as a result, he eventually found himself preparing for presentations mentioned in his syllabi even before his professors mentioned them in class.

“She was extremely helpful and extremely patient with me, and she was extremely passionate with what she did,” he said. “She contributed positively to a lot of people’s lives within the GW DSS community and the GW community as a whole.”

Kramer always came into work with the same amount of enthusiasm, motivation and patience, Freedman said.

“The whole time it never felt like I was just work for her,” he said. “She was always patient with me and very helpful and caring.”

Freedman said Kramer, whom he notes as a grandmotherly figure, taught him two lessons during their time together – have patience and love what you do.

Kramer is survived by her father, Graham Kramer; his wife, Nell Kramer; and her sister, Sarah Kramer, according to her obituary.

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