Alumna's Bequest Will Benefit Distance-Learning Students, Memorialize Aunt
Annetta Weiss, BA '65 always knew she wanted to give back, but the where, why, and how of philanthropy was intimidating. "There comes a time in your life when you think about where you started and what you can contribute. I was looking to give somewhere that would really fulfill me - that would move me in some way."
When her longtime friend and financial adviser, Tom Curtis, BA '81, MA '95, encouraged her to consider the George Washington University as a beneficiary, she was intrigued. Weiss grew up in Washington, DC, and her parents, both federal government employees during World War II, wanted her to pursue an education at GW. She enrolled at the university in 1961, the same year John F. Kennedy took office, and was on campus when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech less than a mile from her room in Strong Hall in 1963. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted shortly after she finished her junior year.
"There was always something happening around campus," says Weiss. "We were right in the middle of everything. The world was right outside our door."
It was in 2009 that Curtis, a planned giving donor himself, first introduced Weiss to GW Senior Planned Giving Advisor Jane Kolson, and the two began what ultimately became "their quest": identifying a recipient for Weiss' estate that resonated with her and benefited the university.
In June 2011, Kolson suggested she and Weiss tour GW's Virginia Science and Technology Campus. The visit included a walk-through of the new School of Nursing simulation lab and a meeting with Dean Jean Johnson, which became a turning point in Weiss' quest.
"When we first met, she was warm, outgoing, and friendly," Dean Johnson says. "It was an instant connection."
Weiss was immediately impressed by the quality and dedication of the Nursing faculty and saw an opportunity to raise the profile of the school, which celebrated its first year of service in 2011. More than that, the meeting with Johnson reminded Weiss of her aunt, Frances, a nurse and midwife who was present at Weiss' birth. Weiss maintained a close relationship with her aunt and wanted to memorialize her as part of her gift.
"Frances was more like a grandmother to me; we were very close. When I visited the School of Nursing, I got that feeling I had been searching for," Weiss says. "I felt fulfilled when I finally decided what I was going to do."
Nearly three years after her quest began, faculty, administrators, and students held an intimate ceremony honoring Weiss' two-part gift, which Johnson described as "significant, and the first of its kind, for the School of Nursing" - an endowed scholarship to aid graduate students in the Nurse Practitioner Program and an endowment for the dean's discretionary fund in memory of her Aunt Frances.
"The reach of this gift goes so far beyond the students who reap the benefits of this scholarship," Johnson said. "Those students will be generous people and will affect so many lives. Every student who benefits from this gift will care for thousands of people in their careers. This gift has a wonderful, multiplying effect."
Weiss designated the bulk of her planned gift to the GW School of Nursing's nurse practitioner program, a distance-education curriculum that prepares nurses to take on the role of a primary care provider. Weiss selected the Nurse Practitioner Program because it would have a widespread impact on both students and patients. The program, taught almost entirely online, allows students to remain in their communities while pursuing advanced education. Distance-education students are ineligible for most kinds of financial aid, so Weiss' scholarship will ensure that finances will not be a barrier to education.
"This gift is very special to me," says Weiss, who hopes her gift, and her journey, will inspire others to give. "I wanted what was best for GW and for me. Our quest led me here, and it's reassuring to know that what I'm doing is special."