Alumnus audits his way through the humanities

fred flatow
fred flatow
Flatow and his wife were planning a summer trip to Pompeii, when he noticed a course on the city was available prior to their departure. The opportunity to learn about Pompeii’s culture, commerce, and architecture before the destruction by the Vesuvius eruption “made the trip much more meaningful.”

Education has always been a top priority for Fred Flatow, SEAS MS ’64. So it’s no surprise to find him in a Foggy Bottom classroom more than 40 years after finishing his GW degree.

In fact, education is what brought him to the United States.

Born in Germany, he and his family moved to Chile in 1939 to flee the Nazis. But because of the cost of education in Chile, he knew he needed to look elsewhere to gain professional knowledge and skills, so he and his wife moved to the U.S. in 1949.

Flatow had offers from a few Northeast colleges to study engineering, but he ultimately found his way to GW, where he received a fellowship funded by NASA.

Armed with a GW master’s degree in electronic engineering, he had a successful career that spanned 30 years and included a stint at Bell Labs, a research organization; 22 years at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he managed large projects including unmanned satellites, and search and rescue (on land and sea) using spacecraft; and private industry and consulting work.

But as an engineer, he didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the humanities, so once he retired in 1993, he immediately started taking classes through GW’s Alumni Course Audit Program.

“I’ve always been interested in humanities — art, music, literature, philosophy,” he says. Some of the courses he’s audited over the years include Chinese culture, German and Russian film, and Spanish literature.

“It’s wonderful thing that GW is doing. I really, really, really enjoy the fact that [these courses] are available to [alumni],” he says. “I admire the university and all it did for me professionally and now.”

He recommends all alumni take advantage of the course audit program.

“It’s very nice – I’m 84 years old now – to be immersed in a group of kids who could be my grandchildren,” he notes. “Learning about their lives, and their contributions in the courses, keeps me young.”

 –Christine Cole

The Alumni Course Audit Program gives all GW alumni the benefit of attending a wide selection of GW courses on a not-for-credit basis. Fall registration begins Monday, Aug. 20; classes start Monday, Aug. 27. For more information, visit


Related posts

Leave a Reply