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Editorials and Opinions

CAG Report: Farewell Georgetown

By my count, we are past Day 90 of our socially distanced existence — an unexpected, unprecedented and very strange experience that most of...

Joseph Robert: A Victorious Life

By John Fenzel On Wednesday, Dec. 7, Joseph E. Robert Jr., one of the Washington area’s great philanthropists, passed away after a battle with Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that also afflicted Senator Edward Kennedy. News of Robert’s death quickly spread throughout Washington’s circles in quiet, almost reverential tones among the many who knew him. At Cafe Milano, Steve Delonga pointed at the table against the wall where Robert frequently dined. “Joe was a fighter, a businessman, and friend who left an enduring legacy. He was always busy, always grateful, and always surrounded by people. But across the room, he would see you, smile, and give you a ‘thumbs-up’ sign.” Robert grew up in a Catholic, middle class family in Silver Spring, Md. And yet in 1970, his penchant for fistfights and ill-advised pranks at St. John’s College High School nearly caused him to drop out altogether. An accomplished athlete, Robert won a regional kickboxing championship in 1973. That same year, while attending Mount Saint Mary’s College, he came forcefully to the aid of a dog being abused, and was promptly expelled for fighting. “While college didn’t exactly work out for Joe,” a high school friend recalled, “the dog he saved stayed with him. That was pretty typical—Joe didn’t stop at ‘rescue.’” “He always focused on the end game and didn’t get distracted by the tactics involved in getting there,” Michela English, the president and CEO of Robert’s foundation, Fight For Children, said. “He was even more passionate about his charitable causes than business.” In 1981, Robert began canvassing banks to loan him money to purchase distressed real estate. Most turned him away. “It was a hard sell, because it was the beginning of the S&L Crisis,” Yankel Ginzburg said. “When conventional wisdom was to stay out of the market, Joe had a different idea.” Robert ultimately convinced Riggs Bank to agree to the loan. His first condominiums were in the Beltsville, Md. area. “Joe would come by in person to pick up the rent checks,” Pamela Ginzburg, one of his first tenants, remembered. “He was involved in all aspects of his business. He had an unrivaled work ethic, and he never forgot his first tenants.” In 1989, when the S&L crisis was at a critical stage, Congress appropriated billions to create the Resolution Trust Corporation. Recognizing an opportunity, Robert formed a parallel association to ensure a role for the private sector. Several years later, Robert had begun a private equity real estate fund business that ultimately became known as JER Partners, managing assets around the world worth nearly $30 billion. In 1990, channeling his love for boxing and his desire to help children, Robert started “Fight Night” to help disadvantaged youth. Leveraging his close personal friendships with Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, Billy Dee Williams and others, Robert grew his Fight Night and the annual charity event came to attract world renowned boxers to the Washington Hilton Hotel and Towers. Boxing legends like Sugar Ray Leonard, Gerry Cooney, Roberto Duran and Joe Frazier could often be seen ringside with Robert—along with city mayors, Joint Chiefs of Staff, business leaders, and Hollywood celebrities. The Fight Night event was a formal “men-only” event. Later, Robert began a separate “sister” women-only venue to fight domestic violence called “Knock Out Abuse” at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington. A tradition soon developed for the “Fight Night” men and the “Knock Out Abuse” ladies to convene immediately after the festivities. “Fight Night” continues to be the premier event for Robert’s signature cause, “Fight For Children,” a foundation he established to improve education and health care opportunities for low income children in Washington, D.C. Since he founded the organization, Fight For Children has directly raised $100 million. “He didn’t just write checks. He got personally involved so he could really make a difference,” English, said. “No matter how hard we have all tried to prepare for his passing, it is still very difficult to believe that he is no longer with us. It’s not an overstatement to say that tens of thousands of kids in D.C. are better off because of Joe.” For those who knew him well, Joe Robert’s authenticity was a defining trait. As the chairman of Business Executives for National Security, he once left a White House luncheon for a visiting Chinese president early, so he could read to his son’s kindergarten class. “He had a great sense of humor and never took himself or anyone else too seriously,” English said. Joe Robert will always be a hero to his family, his friends and to the children who benefited from his generous leadership and positive vision. In his final hours, Robert reportedly could not speak to those who came to see him at his home. “So he smiled and gave everyone a ‘thumbs up’ sign instead,” a close friend said. John Fenzel is an Army Special Forces Officer stationed in Washington, D.C. [gallery ids="100426,114107,114125,114117" nav="thumbs"]

A Big Win for Pride

During this particular Pride Month — with the excitement at a lower pitch due to the absence of a parade and other outdoor events...

Cause of Student Death: Swept Under the Rug?

The April 24 death of Edward Blatz, Jr., 21, a Georgetown University undergraduate, is certainly a tragedy for his family — and a cutting, lasting sorrow no parent should have to bear. Our condolences are offered to family and friends during this time of mourning. The discovery of the death was made more poignant because on this sunny April Sunday people were walking past the fateful house at 1401 33 St. NW — some from the service at nearby St. John’s Church. At the corner, shut down by the Metropolitan Police Department, were police cruisers, an ambulance and a Homicide Division vehicle. With some sharp comments, a few justifiably upset neighbors shook their heads at the well-known student group house and its sad conclusion. The Georgetown University Athletics Department released a statement April 24 quoting Kevin Warne, head coach of the lacrosse team: “Eddie was a great young man who was well-respected and well-liked by his teammates and the Georgetown lacrosse family. He was a very bright student and a talented player and words cannot express the loss we are feeling right now.” Along with a general email to students, that was about all that Georgetown University seemed to want the media to report about the death. The Georgetowner went on to report where that student lived — and the concerns of neighbors over drug and alcohol abuse. Several emails arrived in our inbox — from down the street and across the country. One of those emails came from someone well acquainted with student athletics and the lacrosse world. The accusatory missive — while tough to hear right now — raises some basic questions and is reproduced, in part, here: “Hoyas men’s lacrosse players partying after loss to Virginia, three OD, one dies, one revived by paddle defibrillator, another also hospitalized. “Georgetown University is so tight-lipped on this as it is a clear demonstration of the complicit conspiracy within the quasi-elitist lacrosse community-culture cover up — just as are all schools, coaches, parents and players where the self-ordained immunity to rules violations and consequences tolerate the norm of ‘good boys from good families’ allowed to historically and chronically abuse drugs and alcohol. You needn’t be so disappointed in just Georgetown. This overlooking of the root cause of the problem is systemic and ubiquitous in lacrosse.” The death of Ed Blatz need not be in vain — and we are not saying it is part of any so-called lacrosse insider culture, as described above. But his death should shine a light on any problems students may have with drugs or alcohol — and any exclusionary sports subculture that would be so selective of the truth. Drug abuse or alcohol abuse survive in the dark, not so much in the light.

In Your Power to Vote: Your Freedom, Your Independence

The Georgetowner calls on you, the Ward 2 voters, to research the candidates carefully and, yes, vote twice: in the Ward 2 primary election, to be held June 2, and in the special election on June 16.

Maureen Dowd Party Trashed on Twitter

The dust-up concerned the New York Times columnist’s July 24 party at her N Street home for Times colleague Carl Hulse and his new book.

The Georgetowner Endorses …

At this time two years ago, we were opining about the main presidential contenders,offering the aside, “voters have never before been faced with a...

A Chat With Dr. Tousimis

FOR THE PIONEERING PHYSICIAN, THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS IS PAVED WITH PEACE, PASSION AND PURPOSE On paper, Dr. Eleni Tousimis is an intimidating figure. An award-winning...

Walter Nicholls

In every issue of The Georgetowner, Walter Nicholls, who passed away last Sunday, wrote a column called “What’s Cooking, Neighbor?” In the last of these, in this issue, we seem to be part of his conversation with Ruth Poupon. This column and others over the past year make it clear that he was a real writer, a one-of-a-kind kind of person who breathed in and breathed out curiosity as if it were a rarefied ingredient in the atmosphere. The former Washington Post staff writer was a Magellan of eateries and food shops. “He knew places nobody knew about and people who were not big culinary stars, but were special,” said Nancy McKeon, a former Washington Post editor who worked with him beginning in the 1990s. He liked to go on expeditions where he would make discoveries – roots, vegetables, gardens, people who grew things or made them or cooked them – and the places where the process happened – barns, farms, country inns, out of the way bakeries and markets. When you read his writing, you immediately get the idea that perhaps the most important ingredients of a meal are people: those who set the table, who serve the food, who cook and make and invent the food, and those who dine as opposed to just eat and digest. In this way, a dinner, a breakfast, a table can be a place where the imagination, in conjunction with educated and experienced taste buds, empathy, humor – and taste in the sense of appropriateness – can roam. “We sent him to Alaska once for the Copper River Salmon Run, a fishing event, and he came back with detailed descriptions of the salmons, the fishing, the clothes people wore,” recalled McKeon. “He had so much energy, and he approached everything with intense excitement. He was almost like a toddler in his interests. He was always learning something new: a food, an ingredient.” Walter Nicholls was 64. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer less than three weeks before he died. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Ward 2 Debate: Evans Wants Second Chance, Gets Boos

Jack Evans participated in the March 5 forum alongside eight other candidates, all vying for the Ward 2 Council seat he resigned in January.