British psychologist Dr. Robert Holden says, "If you are alive, you need help."
It's no surprise that this is one of Marie Sansone's favorite quotes. As an environmental lawyer, pioneering public health professional, and former head of Washington, D.C.'s disease prevention and treatment agency, Ms. Sansone, BA '78, has built an impressive career helping those in need.
And it all began during her time as an undergraduate in GW's philosophy department. Ms. Sansone not only graduated with special honors, but she was one of only two students to receive the Charles E. Gauss Prize for Excellence in Philosophy. A dedicated alumna, Ms. Sansone recently made a $250,000 bequest intention to establish the Marie G. Sansone Endowed Fund in Philosophy, which will provide unrestricted annual support for the department's most pressing needs.
After graduating from GW, Ms. Sansone traveled to the West Coast and earned her law degree from Stanford University. From there, her career followed an ambitious path—her passion for environmental law and public policy led her from serving as assistant attorney general in Juneau, Alaska, to returning to Washington, D.C., to play a pivotal role in the city's Environmental Health Administration that culminated in the creation of the District Department of the Environment.
As chief of staff for the D.C. Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA), she also became a top official in D.C.'s battle against the disease. Her many achievements in this challenging role were often supported by GW's School of Public Health and Health Services (now the Milken Institute School of Public Health).
"In all of our endeavors at HAA, we had assistance from GW professors and students," Ms. Sansone says.
Ms. Sansone credits GW with preparing her well for her remarkable career, thanks to the rigorous intellectual training and multifaceted application of her philosophy degree.
"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 states, "and that all goes back to the very same foundational skills that you learn in philosophy classes."
After supporting the philosophy department with annual contributions for more than 20 years, Ms. Sansone reflected 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.
"Well, sooner or later, everyone really should sit down and make out a will," she says. "And that gets you thinking about whether you have done anything, or still have time to do anything, that will make the world a better place."
Ms. Sansone hopes her gift will sustain GW's Department of Philosophy long into the future.
"Philosophy is the most useful subject 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."