Power & Promise Unites Donors and Students

Freshman Samantha Law performs at this year's Power & Promise event.
Freshman Samantha Law performs at this year's Power & Promise event.
Event honors supporters of scholarships and fellowships and celebrates student recipients.
April 29, 2013

David Berg, B.A. ’68, and his wife, Diane, often receive bios of students who receive support from the David W. Berg Scholarship Fund. But at April 25’s Power & Promise event, they were able to connect face to face with a recipient when they enjoyed dinner alongside junior Amzaray Ahmed.

“My scholarship is to promote civil engineering students, and here he is!” Mr. Berg, a civil engineer himself, said gesturing toward Mr. Ahmed. “We’ve never met a student we’ve supported, so tonight’s been fantastic.”

Mr. Berg and Mr. Ahmed weren’t the only pair who had a chance to meet—this year’s event brought together more than 350 students, staff, trustees and donors in an intimate reception and dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The celebration featured jazz performances by freshman Samantha Law, who sang Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” and Brooks Bowman’s “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” accompanied by freshman Nathan Basch on piano.

Connecting students and university donors is an overarching goal of Power & Promise, an initiative that’s brought in more than $64 million in donor scholarship and fellowship funds since its inception in 2009. The fund enables students to take advantage of a GW education, no matter their financial situations. The initiative helped increase need- and merit-based student aid to $160 million in 2012. A video screened at the beginning of the program outlined the experience of some students who received support from the Power & Promise Fund this year.

“Tonight is an opportunity to celebrate one generation supporting the next generation in a way that is incredibly special,” said Provost Steven Lerman during opening remarks. “Part of what happens in Power & Promise is this bonding between the two generations. … It enables students who might not be able to come to GW fulfill their potential, do the things they aspire to do and ultimately give back to society.”

Dr. Lerman introduced junior Morgan Viehman, who spoke about how support from the Elsie M. Carper Scholarship Fund has helped her achieve her dreams of studying journalism.

“By providing me with the opportunity to follow my passion—something I once thought I could never afford to do—the Elsie M. Carper Scholarship Fund makes a difference in my life every day,” Ms. Viehman said. “If I could say anything to the amazing donors who have contributed to GW’s Power & Promise Fund, it would be this: Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, you have to know what it means to me and all the students like me who wouldn’t be here without your help.”

Sen. Mike Enzi, B.A. ’66, R-Wyo., introduced his former college roommate and featured speaker Ambassador Edward W. “Skip” Gnehm Jr., B.A. ’66, M.A. ’68, through a video message. In his remarks, Amb. Gnehm illustrated the complete journey of a student becoming a working professional thanks to scholarship funds.

“I dreamed for years that I would come here, but I had no idea how that would happen,” Amb. Gnehm said. “It would not have been possible if I had not been a recipient of the Scottish Rite scholarship.”

Amb. Gnehm’s career includes 36 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving as U.S. ambassador to Jordan, U.S. ambassador to Australia and U.S. ambassador to Kuwait. He is now the Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs at the Elliott School and director of the Middle East Policy Forum.

“I cannot begin to think how my life might have unfolded if I had not had that assistance,” Amb. Gnehm said.

Newly formed friendships were visible at the end of the night, and the feeling of support and gratitude was palpable. Dinner guests were given a set of greeting cards featuring photographs of iconic GW scenes, shot by senior Zach Krahmer. In one corner of the room, Mr. Berg and Mr. Ahmed stood, exchanging emails and invitations to visit one another later in the year.

“It’s nice to know there’s someone out there who cares,” Mr. Ahmed said of getting to meet the Bergs. “It’s not just the university giving funds, but a real person out there who wants to help.”

To learn how to create an enduring opportunity for generations of future GW students by endowing a scholarship, please contact Matt Banks at mbanks@gwu.edu or 202-994-5125.

Related Links:

2013 Power & Promise Video