“GW is a great university with a heart,” says Honey W. Nashman, associate professor emerita of sociology and human services. And she should know.
“Our children were born at the GW Hospital; my husband, Alvin, has an honorary degree from GW and served on the Board of the [Virginia Science and Technology Campus]; our three daughters graduated from GW: their husbands are GW graduates; our grandson is currently attending GW; and I spent 43 glorious years on the faculty as director of the Human Services and Social Justice program in the Sociology Department.”
Last fall, Nashman and her husband presented GW with a blended gift – an outright gift combined with a promised gift in their estate. Today, the newly named Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service integrates civic engagement into GW’s educational program.
Nashman says she and her husband decided to support the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service because of its strong leadership and the way it effectively involved GW faculty in the scholarship of engagement. In addition, they believe their gift can have a “multiplying effect in the nation’s capital and the global community, and that it can be an opportunity for asset building on the existing strength of the center’s current programs and mission,” says Nashman.
Through the Nashman Center’s 70 service-learning courses and many co-curricular community service and social innovation programs, approximately 9,200 GW students and members of the university community provided more than 658,000 hours of service in the 2015-2016 academic year. According to leadership organization Independent Sector, the value of a volunteer hour for the District of Columbia in 2015 was $38.77, putting the Center’s impact at more than $25 million.
“The Nashman Center has been the best part of my GW experience,” says senior Sara Durrani, CCAS ’17, who has spent many school breaks serving alongside various communities through Alternative Breaks. “I would not be who I am, nor would I have the perspectives and experiences I do, without this place. I will be forever motivated and ready to play an active part in my community.”
As the only child of Eastern European immigrants, the greatest impact on Nashman’s outlook on life came from her family. Her father spent his first few weeks in America, at age 11, on a bench in Foggy Bottom around what is now James Monroe Park. Her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer before Nashman’s fifth birthday, lived for 20 years with the disease. “From this, I developed a deep appreciation for life and social justice,” says Nashman.
Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski, GSEHD BA ’91, MA ’94, EdD ’97, has known Nashman for more than two decades as a mentor and friend. Together, they helped build the culture of community service and service-learning that has become a hallmark of GW’s campus culture.
“Being in the classroom with Honey was like being at a symphony conducted by a master conductor,” says Konwerski. “She was incredible to watch in class and learn from as she facilitated discussions about complex community-based issues, led thoughtful reflection, and processed our students’ experiences from their service-learning activities.”
A fiercely elegant instructor, she can also be mischievously blunt. When asked how others can support the George Washington University, Nashman doesn’t mince words.
“What is important to you?” she asks. “What do you hope to accomplish with your gift? What are you waiting for? Celebrate with the recipients the impact and joy of your giving.” By making both an immediate gift as well as a provision in her estate plans to fund the Nashman Center, she has been able to celebrate her values with recipients like GW senior Matthew Weisberg, GWSPH ’17.
“The Nashman Center not only helps students realize the impact of community engagement, but is a community itself, motivating us to learn outside of our comfort zones,” says Weisberg. “Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ I learned this quote in a Nashman Center program, and it perfectly sums up why service and this center are important to student life at GW.”
You might even say the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service is the heart at the center of GW.
This article was published in the fall 2016 issue of Impact magazine.