Annie Bolger’s love for basketball, and for Mason, has a long history.
As a high school player in North Carolina, Annie was a two-time all-state hoop star. In those pre-Title IX days, there were few opportunities for women athletes, so Annie didn’t play in college. But she never lost her love for the game, and when she and husband John Bolger moved to Northern Virginia in 1996, they soon discovered the growing university in their neighborhood. The couple became ardent Mason supporters—not only of athletics, but of the arts, student scholarships, and more.
“What really connects me to Mason is the many wonderful relationships we’ve enjoyed here, especially with the students,” says Annie Bolger. “When I am around them or the teams, my heart is full. We are so honored to be a part of the Mason Nation.”
To support women student-athletes, the Bolgers recently made a $25,000 gift for the women’s basketball team film room, now named the Annie and John Bolger Film Room in their honor. It’s just their latest commitment to help the players; for several years, the Bolgers sponsored and helped spearhead the team’s Hoops and Heels fundraising dinner, which kicks off each season.
“Annie and John Bolger provide tremendous support for our student-athletes. We can always count on seeing the Bolgers behind our team bench smiling and cheering our Patriots,” said assistant vice president and director of athletics Brad Edwards. “This naming gift is a testament to their unyielding commitment to Mason Athletics, and specifically, the women’s basketball program. We are very grateful for the Bolgers’ partnership.”
As a member of the University Life Advisory Board, Annie is also involved in several initiatives that advance the student experience at Mason, including the annual Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic. As Corporate and Client Service Manager for Sandy Spring Bank, she coordinates the bank’s lead sponsorship of that event, which raises tens of thousands of dollars annually for student scholarships. She also serves on the School of Business campaign steering committee, and for the last three years has co-chaired the annual Arts by George celebration, also sponsored by Sandy Spring Bank.
“That’s an event that I hold dear to my heart,” Annie says. “The people in the arts at Mason are amazing. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to connect at Mason to both my loves, the arts and athletics.”
Annie’s husband John, a retired U.S. Army colonel, shares her enthusiasm. A West Point graduate and athlete, he served in Vietnam and Cambodia, then later helped coach football and taught English during two tours back at the academy. That included three years as Garrison Commander at West Point, where Annie took the cadets under her wing. While both Bolgers are ardent Mason backers (they even named one of their dogs George), Col. Bolger respectfully notes that “Annie is in charge. I just tag along and sit in good seats.”
Another charity the couple supports is Operation Renewed Hope Foundation, a group that aims to end the problem of homelessness among veterans in the D.C. area. “The day before Thanksgiving we handed over the keys to a house in Arlington for a Marine and his family that had been homeless,” Annie says. “We already had the freezer and refrigerator stocked so they could cook their turkey dinner the next day.”
With regards to women’s basketball, Annie is optimistic about the team’s prospects for improvement under new coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis. “All the people that know Vanessa are very high on her. If anybody can turn it around, she can,” says Annie, who proudly flies a Mason flag outside on game days. “I like her motto, Believe Big. I hope we stick with that motto, because we really need it.”
The Bolgers are also civic boosters and strongly rooted in the city of Fairfax. “That’s one of my goals—connecting the city of Fairfax and George Mason University. I’d like every business in the city of Fairfax to hang out a Mason banner on days when we have a basketball game. On those days everybody should wear green and gold. That’s what I’d like to see.”
—Rob Riordan, Feb. 23, 2022