Since her children, Meagan, BS ’14, and John, BS ’15, were in grade school, Paula and her husband, Dan, have been committed to philanthropy, donating their time and raising funds for groups and causes they care about.
So when Meagan decided to attend GW, the Riordans realized they could start making a difference close to home. “Shortly after GW accepted Meagan, I remember attending an event with other parents and President Knapp,” Paula recounts. “We realized that we were good candidates for making a difference at the school.”
From that point on, Paula and Dan became “highly involved” in the GW community.
“First and foremost, we believe in philanthropy and setting an example for our kids. Actions speak louder than words, and our kids do a great job of giving back,” Paula says. She points to Meagan’s work with For the Love of Children, a nonprofit, D.C.-based tutoring organization for which Meagan has volunteered since 2013.
“[Meagan] is gifted in math and began tutoring when she was in fourth grade. When she came to GW, she found a way to keep doing that. She’s now earning her master’s in finance from GW, and is still involved with the same organization.”
In 2009, Paula and Dan joined the Family Philanthropy Board (FPB), which has allowed them, along with undergraduate students and other parents, to work with administrators to improve campus life. Paula has been a key player in several initiatives, from raising awareness and funds for student programs to advocating for the expansion of Disability Support Services.
Paula says the FPB has allowed her to become part of a community where she can direct GW families’ feedback to the university. One of her first tasks after joining the FPB was liaising with administrators to bring more dining options to campus.
“A lot of the feedback we received was about how food options were lacking for students,” she explains, “but within a single calendar year, we were able to change that. Awareness was made, and it was addressed.”
The Riordans were living in Nevada when Meagan and John began applying to colleges. Many of their classmates were looking at schools on the West Coast. But the family knew that—while farther away from home—GW was the educational experience they were looking for.
“There are a lot of great schools out there. But I always say that GW provides a 360-degree education,” Paula says. “GW is all about including everybody and pushing students to problem solve in every direction. These professors teach students the whole picture.”
She says the university’s focus on professional development, internships, and diverse student activities helped her kids enter the workforce “feeling capable and qualified.” Currently, John is an aerospace engineer at Williams International. Meagan is an associate at Morgan Stanley, and will complete her master’s in finance from the School of Business this summer.
Though Paula and Dan now reside in Florida, Paula says she “still gets chills” thinking about the experiences the nation’s capital has to offer.
“Only at GW do you get to see your children become part of history,” she says. —Sophie Ota, SMPA ’18
To get involved as a parent volunteer, please contact GW Family Philanthropy.