The Impact of Philanthropy Fall 2023
From scholarships that change lives to ground-breaking research that shapes our greater world, see how donor generosity at GW creates powerful change.
Anonymous donation transforms and sustains world-class textile conservation, curatorial scholarship and educational initiatives.
// by Eliza Ward
In September, President Ellen M. Granberg announced an anonymous $25 million gift to support The Textile Museum, the single largest investment in the museum’s history. Over nearly 100 years, The Textile Museum has gained an international reputation for excellence in research, exhibitions and educational programs that explore textile art as global cultural heritage, with collections spanning five continents and five millennia. The museum’s conservation program has been a pioneer in innovative practices in textile care and providing specialized training for conservators.
The Textile Museum reopened in its new home at the George Washington University in 2015, bringing new opportunities to invigorate research and scholarship, transform collections care and prepare the next generation of museum professionals.
“This extremely generous gift will have a transformational impact on The Textile Museum,” Granberg said. “The museum is recognized as a center of excellence for the international prominence of its collections, its academic mission and its global community. These funds will allow us to expand our leading work in textile collections care, scholarship and museum training for generations to come.”
The bulk of the gift, $24 million, will be placed in an endowment to provide long-term support for textile conservation, curatorial scholarship and educational initiatives. As The Textile Museum prepares for its centennial celebration in 2025, the remaining $1 million will fund current needs including new equipment for conservation, enhancements to the Textiles 101 learning center, technology to facilitate virtual programming and preserve the museum’s digital resources, and other centennial priorities.
“This extraordinary gift acknowledges the worldwide relevance of our museum’s collections, invests in our museum professionals and recognizes our responsibility to share, collaborate and facilitate access to global heritage,” said John Wetenhall, director of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. “It also signals an investment in the future of textiles: training the next generation of scholars and museum professionals and expanding the museum’s audience through digital learning.”
In the 2022-23 academic year, the museum employed approximately 40 GW students on a part-time basis, offering hands-on exposure to museum professions. “My work at The Textile Museum has developed new skills that will help me in my future career,” said Emma Stewart, an M.A. student in GW’s Museum Studies Program who works in the museum’s curatorial department. “I've had opportunities to complete collection inventories, physically handle textiles, conduct research and get exposure to methods and materials, and learn how to work with a variety of professionals across the museum.”
Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president for development and alumni relations, noted that the gift reflects the donor’s belief in The Textile Museum’s enduring capacity for impact. “Investing in GW with a gift of this size is an incredible testament to our leadership in textile studies and preservation. We are honored by this gift, which demonstrates faith in The Textile Museum to protect and promote cultural heritage that is significant across the globe.”
Twelve million dollars in endowed funds for conservation and curatorial engagement will underwrite students and visiting scholars, advance research and scholarship, and support the museum’s Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology campus. The conservation lab preserves more than 25,000 textiles in the collections and prepares them for display in museum exhibitions. It also serves aspiring conservators through training programs and graduate fellowships.
Another $12 million establishes a new endowment to support onsite museum education and broaden global reach through digital initiatives, ensuring the museum continues to be an integral part of teaching, research and learning at GW. Priorities include appointing a new educator dedicated to engaging faculty and students, as well as creating academic courses and paid student positions. Endowed funds will also support museum staff professional development.
Additionally, the endowment will fund the hardware, software and staffing to activate The Textile Museum Collection online, focusing special support on interpretation by our community of students, faculty and independent researchers. These endeavors will also ensure the preservation and dissemination of digital images of collection artworks and the archives of leading textile scholars.
“This remarkable donor’s generosity ensures The Textile Museum of enduring reach as it addresses the key challenge of cultivating successive generations of those who appreciate textiles as art and cultural heritage,” said Bruce P. Baganz, chairman of The Textile Museum’s board of trustees and co-chair of the George Washington University Museum’s board. “This investment fundamentally advances our aspirations for the museum’s international leadership in art, scholarship, education and fostering cultural understanding.”
Arbide added that she frequently stops by the museum in Foggy Bottom to see the latest exhibitions, noting that the facility is free and open to the public, not just the GW community. “Textiles provide a unique view into cultures that have existed since the dawn of civilization,” she said. “The museum is a truly remarkable gem.”
Emmy-winning actor, producer, activist, former trustee and alumna establishes need-based scholarship in honor of her parents.
// by Ann McMaster
Distinguished alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. ’98, HON ’13, has established the Earl and Valerie Washington Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor her parents and support need-based undergraduate study at the George Washington University. President Ellen M. Granberg announced the scholarship at a September event on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus celebrating Washington’s new memoir, “Thicker than Water.”
The memoir includes Washington’s journey to GW from the Bronx as an undergraduate, supported by a Presidential Performing Arts Scholarship. “With my scholarship, I was being paid not just to act but to learn how to act; I was given a toolbox to access and harness the magic,” Washington writes in her book.
At GW, Washington engaged in the work of theater in the costume and scene shop, in auditions and performances and through intensive coursework. It was at GW that Washington “fell more deeply in love with the craft” and decided to pursue acting as a profession.
The Earl and Valerie Washington Endowed Scholarship Fund, named for her father, a real estate broker, and her mother, an educator, supports undergraduate students in need of financial support pursuing liberal arts degrees at GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. As an endowed fund, this generous support will endure in perpetuity, offering scholarships to many future generations of GW students.
“Kerry is a remarkable example of the determination and success so many GW alumni achieve in their chosen fields. We are so proud of what she has accomplished in her life and career and the grace and generosity she continues to model,” said Granberg. “We are so grateful that she has chosen to honor her parents in this very special way, and that she continues to be an active part of the GW community.”
"With my scholarship, I was being paid not just to act but to learn how to act; I was given a toolbox to access and harness the magic.”
In addition to a noted career in television, film and civic life, Washington has been an active supporter of her alma mater as a trustee, a Commencement speaker and a Monumental Alumna.
“Kerry is a remarkable example of the way many GW alumni walk the talk,” said Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “She is committed to her career and to making a meaningful difference through her philanthropy and her activism. It is particularly moving that she has chosen to honor her parents by supporting future generations.”
Washington is heavily involved with social and political causes, embodying a commitment to a better world common to many GW alumni. An activist since her teens, she now uses her platform to support grassroots efforts to promote democracy, women entrepreneurs and other causes.
CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck expressed gratitude on behalf of Columbian College and the talented students these scholarships will attract. “Solving the complex problems facing humanity requires us to bring together people and ideas from diverse disciplines and cultures in innovative ways,” he said. “Our graduates are known for thoughtful deliberation, creative innovation and agile collaboration. Those are skills our world desperately needs and that Kerry, in her many roles, embodies.”
More than 130 works comprise the multimillion-dollar donation and provide hands-on experience for GW students.
In June, the estate of celebrated oncologist and philanthropist, triple alumnus and GW trustee emeritus Luther W. Brady, A.A. ’44, B.A. ’46, M.D. ’48, HON ’04, bequeathed more than 130 works of art to the gallery bearing his name at the George Washington University. The artwork is valued at over $3.3 million.
The Brady estate concurrently gave an equally generous portion of his art collection to the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pa., where Brady served two terms on its board and previously donated artworks.
“This significant collection enhances the George Washington University’s standing as a cultural touchstone in Washington, D.C., and provides hands-on classroom learning opportunities for our students,” then President Mark S. Wrighton said. “We welcome all to experience, enjoy and learn from these treasures that provide a window into a different era.”
“Dr. Brady was a visionary for expanding access to art at GW,” Brady Art Gallery Assistant Director Olivia Kohler-Maga said. “Starting in the 1990s, he worked tirelessly for over two decades to provide the GW community with the opportunity to view the work of internationally acclaimed artists. The gift of these major artworks is a continuation of his legacy, yet another enduring contribution to an institution he believed gave him so much.”
The bequest has provided a unique opportunity for hands-on learning at GW. Students in a graduate seminar led by Associate Professor of Art History Bibiana Obler completed original research and writing that are included in the joint exhibition catalog used both by the Brady Art Gallery and the Reading Public Museum.
“The course was a combination of very practical, hands-on [curatorial] work and deep, intensive archival research that was quite unique,” Obler said. “It’s a lovely thing, because the students were able to leave [the course] with publications to their name.”
Beyond students studying the collection itself, the seminar, “Curating a Collection,” gave them a background on mid-20th-century art and the Brady collection along with a more general analysis of the relationship between artists, donors and institutions. For students, Obler said, the class provided an opportunity to examine why people collect art, why they donate it, and how researchers and curators can bring color and context to these collections.
A triple GW alumnus who also received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from GW in 2004, Brady built a remarkable legacy in medicine, academia and the arts. He was a leading radiation oncologist who helped pioneer breakthrough treatments for eye tumors and cervical cancer. For more than 50 years, he imparted his experience and expertise to students at Hahnemann University School of Medicine and Drexel University College of Medicine. Brady was a dedicated patron of the arts, serving on a number of museum boards and supporting prestigious institutions like the National Gallery of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Brady died in 2018 at age 92.
Brady left a lasting impact on his alma mater. His long-term philanthropic support of GW, focused primarily on art and medicine, spanned more than five decades. His namesake gallery, now located in the Corcoran Flagg Building, houses thousands of works of historic and contemporary art of the GW Collection. Brady endowed the gallery in 2001, donating many gifts of artwork over the years and advocating for its relocation from the Media and Public Affairs building to the larger space in 2018. He also generously supported construction of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Ross Hall and more during his lifetime.
His bequest included a gift to endowment funding supporting a named radiation oncology professorship in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He took an active role in the stewardship of the university and its institutions, serving on the Board of Trustees for over 20 years and sitting on the board of directors of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. In 2015, the trustee emeritus was honored with the President’s Medal for his long-standing service and philanthropy.
“Dr. Brady was a truly exceptional alumnus, leader and patron, and he has left GW an equally incredible legacy that supports and commemorates his twin passions, art and medicine,” said Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “We are grateful for his countless contributions over many decades. He is sorely missed, but his support and positive impact lives on.”
Alumnus David Gitter endows fund promoting advanced proficiency in the Chinese language through immersive instruction abroad.
// by Amy Aldrich
While studying for his master’s degree in Asian studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, David Gitter, M.A. ’15, pored voraciously through GW’s Chinese-language resources, including the world-class special collection of the China Documentation Center at Gelman Library.
The many hours he spent with these Chinese-language books and journals helped shape his conviction that “advanced proficiency in the Chinese language, both written and spoken, is essential to a true understanding of Chinese culture, history and politics.”
Now an expert on contemporary (post-1949) China who has lived, worked and studied in Beijing, Gitter has firsthand knowledge of the major role that the Chinese language plays in helping professional China watchers make sound assessments and offer informed advice. While Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over 1 billion people, few Westerners are fluent.
Thanks to Gitter’s generosity, each year an Elliott School graduate student, selected by competitive application as a David Gitter Fellow, will be able to experience immersive Chinese-language instruction in China, funded by the David A. Gitter Endowment for Contemporary China Studies. The endowment also enables the school to expand course offerings focused on contemporary China.
“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a major world power and of extreme importance to the United States,” Gitter said. “I want this endowment to help American scholars and practitioners acquire a deep and granular understanding of the PRC.”
Donna Arbide, vice president for development and alumni relations, said, “This gift will give GW students focused on China a big leg up in their studies and careers by adding firepower to critical on-the-ground language study. We are so grateful for successful alumni like David who open doors for others as they advance their impact on their field.”
Gitter made the $1 million gift through the think tank he founded to advance U.S. understanding of China’s domestic politics, foreign affairs and security policy, the Center for Advanced China Research (CACR). CACR quickly became an important resource for China specialists and media outlets. The David A. Gitter Endowment for Contemporary China Studies will serve as an extension of the center’s work at GW and secure its legacy.
Use of resources provided by the new endowment will be overseen by the Elliott School’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies, a federally recognized East Asia National Resource Center.
“This exceptional gift recognizes the field-defining work that the Sigur Center for Asian Studies is doing, and it will strengthen our offerings for students focused on China,” said Alyssa Ayres, dean of the Elliott School. “Given China’s role on the world stage, there is a critical need for a new cadre of experts who understand contemporary China—and have advanced Chinese-language proficiency.
“We also look forward to bringing experts to campus to teach new courses that will broaden understanding of the geopolitical, geoeconomic and cultural aspects of modern-day China,” said Ayres.
With the Third Century Scholarship Endowment Match: Unlocking Access to Undergraduate Education, GW is doubling down on undergraduate scholarship support with a historic dollar-for-dollar fundraising match.