Even as a boy, Dirk Brady understood the harsh realities of prejudice. Born in Hanover, Germany, in 1918, the only child of Jewish merchants, Dirk enjoyed a childhood not unlike that of his peers. He excelled in school, played sports and was popular with his classmates. But it was not long before his carefree childhood fell victim to the ethnic persecution sweeping his homeland.
"When Hitler came into power, my friends were more or less forced to join Hitler's Youth," says Dirk. "They wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't sit next to me. When it came to sports, they didn't want me on their team. It just got worse and worse."
As the years passed and the political climate grew more precarious, Dirk's parents sent him to stay with friends in the U.S. to escape the increasing hostility. Forced to abruptly leave high school, the 17-year-old arrived in Washington, DC, without a dollar in his pocket or a diploma to his name.
But the young teenager was not entirely destitute: he had an unwavering desire for knowledge and a university that was willing to give him a chance. "The most important thing to me was to get an education," Dirk recalls. "I got a job and started night school at GW. It wasn't easy, but I was determined."
Dirk worked full time as an industrial toolmaker in College Park, Md., to put himself through seven years of engineering school at George Washington. When the U.S. entered World War II, Dirk was eager to join the armed forces. Sensing his urgency, the dean allowed Dirk to take 30 credits in one semester in order to expedite his graduation.
"Everything GW could do to help me, they did. If I needed special courses, or needed to change my schedule, they were always helpful."
The rest, according to Dirk, is history. He graduated from GW, served two years in the Merchant Marines, and went on to have a long and successful career in engineering. Equipped with his GW education, the onceimpoverished refugee who began his career as a toolmaker secured a job as a designer, then a chief engineer and eventually the vice president of a manufacturing company.
"I never thought I'd be admitted to GW in the first place," says Dirk. "But they accepted me, and I was able to get a wonderful education. In that sense, GW has helped form my whole life."
Today, Dirk and his wife, Judy, are paying it forward. Through a number of charitable gift annuities, as well as gifts given by other family members in Dirk's honor, the Bradys and their family have supported several causes at GW, including establishing a scholarship fund for students who have fled their home countries because of political, ethnic or religious persecution.
The Bradys specifically chose charitable gift annuities because it "just made sense" given their circumstances. In their eyes, the fixed income of a charitable gift annuity provided financial stability and satisfied both their investment and philanthropic goals. But, the Bradys insist that those are just the perks. The real value, they say, comes from knowing they are helping students throughout GW, including helping students overcome the prejudice and persecution that drove Dirk from his home nearly 75 years ago.
"GW gave Dirk the opportunity to get an education when all the odds were against him," says Judy. "Now we're happy to offer the same opportunity to people who find themselves on unfamiliar ground and need the support of a stranger to rise above their circumstance and reach their full potential."
Dirk Samulon Brady, BA'43, SEAS, passed away at his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, on May 22, 2012. He is survived by his wife, Judith, and students who were the beneficiaries of scholarships that he established over the years.