Alumna Embraces Philosophy of Giving Back

Bequest intention supports philosophy department's most pressing needs

Support from alumna Marie Sansone, BA ’78, will help students and faculty in GW’s Department of Philosophy (pictured) make the w
Support from alumna Marie Sansone, BA ’78, will help students and faculty in GW’s Department of Philosophy (pictured) make the world a better place.
May 26, 2015

“If GW’s philosophy department performs well,” says Marie Sansone, BA ’78, “then its actions will impact all areas of human endeavor.”

A dedicated alumna of GW’s Department of Philosophy, Marie has made at $250,000 bequest intention to help the department do just that. The gift will establish the Marie G. Sansone Endowed Fund in Philosophy and provide unrestricted annual support for the philosophy department’s most pressing needs.

As a student, Marie was drawn to GW because of its offerings in political science, history, and philosophy, and she was accepted into a unique residential program for freshman: Political Science and the Contemporary Imagination. The program was the first of its kind in the D.C. area and emphasized in-depth studies of political problems combined with extracurricular activities and discussion. It was through this experience that Marie began to develop her interest in philosophy and her passion for public policy.

“The program entailed a lot of hard work, but it got us out to congressional offices and federal agencies for interviews and research,” Marie remembers.

She excelled in the program and not only graduated with special honors in philosophy but was one of two graduating students to receive the Charles E. Gauss Prize for Excellence in Philosophy, a top departmental distinction for undergraduates. After graduation, Marie headed straight into law school to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer.

“Generally, I would recommend that toddlers refrain from making permanent career decisions,” she jokes, “but sometimes it’s just the thing!”

Marie credits GW with preparing her well for a remarkable career. In addition to serving as a state’s attorney and playing a pivotal role in the creation of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), she became a top official in D.C.’s battle against HIV/AIDS. As chief of staff for the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA), Marie was instrumental in the publication of the first reliable statistics on D.C.’s HIV epidemic. This report, which was published in 2007, has led to significant improvements in HAA’s prevention, testing, and surveillance and epidemiology programs.

These accomplishments, she says, were made possible with the help of many people and organizations, including GW. “In all of our endeavors at HAA, we had assistance from GW professors and students,” she says.

Marie’s impressive record is a testament to the rigorous education she received at GW and the multifaceted application of the study of philosophy.

“When you are dealing with something like disease surveillance, you can draw on many principles: objectivity, accuracy and precision, data integrity, privacy and confidentiality, statistical analysis,” she explains, “and that all goes back to the very same foundational skills that you learn in philosophy classes.”

After she left the D.C. area to return to upstate New York, Marie, who has supported the philosophy department with annual gifts for more than 20 years, began to reflect on how she could continue to make a difference for the department that she loves and that played such an important role in her success. Her answer: a planned gift.

“A planned gift makes a great legacy,” she says. “While it’s probably a bit cliché, I view my contribution as an investment in the future.”

Marie hopes her gift will contribute to GW’s Department of Philosophy long into the future and help GW students and faculty make the world a better place.

“Philosophy is the most useful subject that you can pursue, because more so than any other, it teaches you to inquire, to think critically, to analyze, and to communicate complex thoughts,” she explains. “With all the problems that we have in the world today, we desperately need people who can bring reasoned and principled analysis to the table.”