Dedicated Alumni Honored at 2014 Service Awards

Left to right: William Ziegler, Harjinder Gill, Will Alexander, President Steven Knapp, Lara Oboler, Robert Snyder and Bret Caldwell at Thursday's Alumni Outstanding Service Awards. (Photo: Amanda Lomax)
Left to right: William Ziegler, Harjinder Gill, Will Alexander, President Steven Knapp, Lara Oboler, Robert Snyder and Bret Caldwell at Thursday’s Alumni Outstanding Service Awards. (Photo: Amanda Lomax)

GW and the GW Alumni Association (GWAA) honored seven dedicated alumni at the 53rd annual Alumni Outstanding Service Awards on Thursday, Apr. 3, recognizing them for their volunteer efforts that advance the mission of the university.

Established in 1961, the Alumni Outstanding Service Awards recognize GW and Mount Vernon College graduates. The awards include the Jane Lingo Alumni Outstanding Service Award, which honors the volunteer efforts of a GW faculty or staff member who is also a graduate of the university.

The 2014 recipients were honored for a wide range of volunteer efforts, from mentoring students to establishing scholarships and student aid to improving and developing university programs.

“These volunteer leaders exemplify service—a major component of the alumni association,” GWAA President Steven Frenkil, CCAS BA ’74, said in welcoming remarks.

Thursday’s honorees were Will Alexander, SEAS BS ’04, GWSB MBA ’06; Bret Caldwell, CCAS BA ’92, GSPM MA ’96; Harjinder Gill, MVC BBA ’99; David Nadler, ESIA BA ’70; Lara Oboler, SMHS MD ’95; William Ziegler, GWSB BBA ’81; and Jane Lingo Award winner Robert Snyder, GWSB BBA ’95.

“The alumni community is not merely made up of individuals, but is a lifelong, worldwide community,” GW President Steven Knapp said during the ceremony. “Every year, we pause to recognize the outstanding service of alumni who are chosen by their peers.”

Recipients reflected on their time as students and how their education, as well as mentorships and friendships, have affected their lives.

Alexander said that it was never a question whether he would attend college—it was only a question of how. The recipient of a Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship, Alexander has remained a fixture at GW, providing professional development opportunities for students and serving in the Engineer Alumni Association.

“Seemingly little acts and gestures can amount to transformative change,” he said.

Caldwell, the communications director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and co-chair of the Teamsters Labor History Research Center, has been instrumental in establishing the James R. Hoffa Chair in Modern Labor History. He credits GW for not only providing an education, but many important relationships and friendships.

“I’m lucky,” he said, “to get an award for doing something for the two organizations I love the most.”

Gill, a member of the GWAA Board of Directors who routinely opens her home to students, reflected on the legacy of the founder of Mount Vernon College and Seminary, Elizabeth J. Somers.

“I have been pleased to carry Somers’ work forward since I graduated,” she said. “The essence of providing an education and foundation to women hasn’t changed.”

Oboler has created a need-based scholarship to help medical students relieve loan debt and helped established the GW Women’s Physician Network in both New York and Washington, D.C.

“When I was a little girl, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a doctor,” she said. “I am forever grateful for my GW education, and I am compelled to give back to the university.”

Recognized for his long history of mentoring students and encouraging fellow alumni to do the same, Ziegler, who serves on the GW School of Business Board of Advisors, described visiting the university for the first time as a “lightning strike” moment in his life.

“It is my honor to give back to a school that has meant so much to me,” he said.

Nadler, unable to attend the ceremony, was recognized for his longstanding service to the GW community as a member of the Board of Trustees and chairman emeritus of the Board of Advisors at the Elliott School of International Affairs. The evening concluded with the presentation of the Jane Lingo Award to Robert Snyder, who serves as executive director of planning and outreach for student affairs.

Jane Lingo, CCAS BA ’46, a pioneering journalist, volunteer and longtime member of the university community, was one of the first women invited to join the National Press Club in 1971, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board, Pi Beta Phi sorority and the GW Hospital Women’s Board.

“Alumni who work at the university play an important role—it’s a special relationship with the university,” Snyder said. “Jane Lingo once said that what she loved about GW was the atmosphere and the feeling of doing something worthwhile—both of which sum up my experience at GW.”

–Melissa Nyman

A version of this article originally appeared on GW Today on April 7, 2014. To learn more about the 2014 Alumni Outstanding Service Award Recipients, read their bios

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