The ability of one individual’s philanthropy to benefit the people of an entire region was on display Monday at the official dedication of the newly-named Schar School of Policy and Government at Mason’s Arlington Campus.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and other political luminaries joined university leaders at the event to laud businessman and philanthropist Dwight Schar for his strategic investment in the well-being of Northern Virginia. Schar’s vision for Mason and his long history of support reached a new high point this spring with his gift of $10 million to the public policy school.
“Our Commonwealth is strong today because of leaders like Dwight Schar,” Governor McAuliffe said to an audience of nearly 300 people, including many current students and alumni of the school. “You have made this not only a better Commonwealth, you’ve made this a better university and you’ve made this a better country.”
Former congressman and current rector of the university Thomas M. Davis III concurred, adding that “this naming is a most deserving honor, because Dwight Schar helped build Northern Virginia, and he is helping build George Mason University, both through his time and his resources.”
For the Schars, “service to Mason is a family tradition,” said Davis, noting that Schar received the George Mason Medal, the university’s highest honor, in 2003. He also served on the George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees from 1986 through 1998, and established an endowed faculty chair in 2002 for the Center for Regional Analysis. His daughter, Tracy Schar, who also attended the dedication, earned her bachelor’s degree from Mason in 1984 and is currently a member of the university’s Board of Visitors. “The Schars recognize that a gift to George Mason University is a gift to Northern Virginia,” Davis concluded.
University president Ángel Cabrera praised the fact that the school will now be named “for someone with a name that indicates real values-led leadership, someone that means a lot in the history of this place.”
“This is a transformative gift for the school, and another example of how our university has come such a long way in a short time,” Cabrera added. “For decades, Dwight Schar has been helping our university go ‘faster farther’,” said Cabrera, in a reference to Mason’s current $500 million comprehensive campaign launched in 2015.
Governor Kasich put Schar’s commitment to helping the university in a broader context. “There are moments when we can rise to a higher level, when we live a life a little bit bigger than ourselves,” Kasich said impassionately. “Dwight has been very generous to this school. [When he is gone] people won’t talk much about his business career or how much money he made. They’re going to talk about his generosity, the moments he lived his life bigger than himself.”
With more than 80 faculty and 14 degree programs, the Schar School educates 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year, a group Cabrera called “a new generation of leaders who can make good things happen in our society.” In the brief months since Schar made his commitment, “amazing things are happening for this school,” noted Dean Mark J. Rozell, citing a new partnership to conduct joint public opinion polling with the Washington Post, the launch of the Steven Fuller Institute, whose work Schar has long supported, and an array of new public programs.
As Gov. McAuliffe concluded: “On behalf of all the citizens of the state, I want to thank Dwight Schar for his leadership, for his charitable contributions, for his vision for the state, and his vision for education … We are so honored that he is a Virginia resident. Thank you, Dwight.”
October 18, 2016 / RR