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September 11, 2007

MEDIA CONTACTS: Matt Lindsay: (202) 994-0487;
Adela de la Torre: (202) 994-6424;


WASHINGTON - The George Washington University President Steven Knapp and The George Washington Alumni Association have announced the recipients of the 71st annual Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards and the first annual Recent Alumni Achievement Award. The seven winners will be honored at a ceremony during Alumni Reunion Weekend on Friday, September 28, 2007, at 11 a.m. in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom, 800 21st St., NW. Alumni Achievement Award recipients are recognized for the lasting impact they have made on society though outstanding professional, voluntary, or philanthropic accomplishments.

"This wonderfully diverse group of alumni is representative of the significant impact that GW graduates are having on our nation and around the globe," said President Knapp. "The contributions of these award winners to science, business, health, education, and human flourishing in general are an inspiration to the entire GW community."

This year's recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award are:

Anousheh Ansari, M.S. ; '92, is a partner at Prodea LLP, a venture capital firm she co-founded in 2003. A member of the X Prize Foundation's Vision Circle and its board of trustees, Ansari, together with her brother-in-law, sponsored the Ansari X Prize - a $10-million cash prize conferred on the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space. In 1999, she received the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in technology and communications, and Working Woman magazine selected Ansari as the winner of the 2000 National Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. On September 18, 2006, Ansari blasted off for an eight-day expedition aboard the International Space Station as part of the Expedition 14 crew of the Soyuz TMA-9, and in the process captured headlines around the world as the first female private space explorer and the first astronaut of Iranian descent.

Martin Burt, M.A. '83, is the founder and current CEO of Fundacion Paraguaya, an organization devoted to the development of small enterprises in Paraguay through the creation, growth, and strengthening of sustainable microfinance services. Fundacion Paraguaya was created in 1985, and was the first NGO in Paraguay. From 1991 to 1993, Burt served as vice minister of commerce for Paraguay, and in 1996 Burt was elected as mayor of the capital city of Paraguay, Asuncion, and served a five-year term. In addition to his work with Fundacion Paraguaya, Burt also has founded or co-founded several development-based organizations, including Fundacion Bertoni, currently Paraguay's largest environmental NGO, and Teach a Man to Fish. He is the author of several books ranging in subject from local community citizenship to the Paraguayan economy to poetry. 
Scott Cowen, M.B.A. '72, D.B.A. '75, is the president of Tulane University, a position which he assumed in 1998. As president, Cowan has dramatically expanded the student population and grown the school's fund-raising base. During his tenure, the level of total private giving to the university has doubled, and he led a $700-million campaign at Tulane -  the largest in school history. He is the author of more than 100 articles, essays, and reviews, and has co-authored four books. Throughout his career he has shown tremendous integrity and commitment to public service, most recently demonstrated during the revitalization of New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Cowen successfully reopened the university after only one semester of closure, a remarkable and challenging feat. As head of the committee to reform and rebuild New Orleans's failing public school system and as commissioner of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, Cowen continues to devote his energy and considerable abilities towards the rebuilding of the city.

J. Richard Knop, J.D. '69, is senior managing director and co-head of defense and government services at BB&T Capital Markets/Windsor Group. Following his graduation, with honors, from GW Law School, Knop began his career on Capitol Hill, where he worked as an international corporate attorney. In the mid-1980s he changed careers, and by 1992 had co-founded the Windsor Group, leading its development into the preeminent middle market merger and acquisition firm to the government contracting industry until its acquisition by BB&T Capital Markets in 2005. The Windsor Group is now the largest of BB&T Capital Markets' seven divisions, with more than 20 investment bankers providing merger and acquisition, IPO, corporate finance, and valuation services to government technology contractors. In 2004, Knop was named Greater Washington Technology Financier of the Year and Dealmaker of the Year for the Washington area.

Martin F. Pera, Ph.D. '79, is the director of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. After earning a doctorate in pharmacology from GW, he worked in England at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Oxford University's Department of Zoology, and in Australia at the Monash Institute of Medical Research and the Australian Stem Cell Center.  Pera's work has had fundamental importance for our understanding of stem cell biology and was an essential component to the continuation of research in the field. He was among a small number of researchers who pioneered the isolation and characterization of pluripotent stem cells from human germ cell tumors of the testis, work that provided an important framework for the development of human embryonic stem cells. His laboratory at Monash University was the second in the world to isolate embryonic stem cells from the human blastocyst and the first to describe their differentiation into somatic cells in vitro.

Paul Roth, M.D. '76, is the executive vice president for health sciences at the University of New Mexico (UNM). He has served in this role since 2006 and has been dean of the School of Medicine since 1994. Roth was the first emergency medicine physician to become a dean, and in 2006 served as chair of the Council of Deans for the Association of American Medical Colleges. Roth's expertise lies in the field of disaster medicine and his work has helped shape the national agenda for the field. He founded the UNM Center of Disaster Medicine and created the nation's first civilian Disaster Medical Assistance Team in the National Disaster Medical System in 1984. Roth was invited to be a member of the Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Emergency Advisory Council, and most recently was invited to be a member of the joint Department of Homeland Security and Department of State "Secure Borders, Open Doors" Advisory Committee.

This year's recipient of the Recent Alumni Achievement Award is:

Linnea Axman, Dr.P.H. '03, is an active duty captain in the United States Navy. She is the head of nursing research and analysis and acting head of the staff education and training department, as well as the senior nurse in the research and analysis work center at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif. Axman joined the Navy Nurse Corps in 1985 following two years as a director of nursing service and six years as an emergency department and critical care nurse. In 1998, prior to beginning her doctoral studies at GW, Axman received the College of Naval Command and Staff Diploma from the U.S. Naval War College. In April 2006, she returned from a six-month deployment to Kuwait where she was the Officer in Charge at Troop Medical Clinic, Camp Doha. Additional duties as a naval officer have included multiple visits to Sub-Saharan Africa as a core team member for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and two terms as president of the Uniformed Nurse Practitioner's Association.

The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award is the highest form of recognition given by the University and the GW Alumni Association to alumni on an annual basis. Each recipient has made a lasting impact on society through outstanding professional, voluntary, or philanthropic accomplishments. Prior recipients include Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State; J. Edgar Hoover, former FBI director; Allyn E. Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural Engineers; Zelda D. Fichandler, founder of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; and Joseph Prueher, former U.S. Ambassador to China.

The Recent Alumni Achievement Award is presented to alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years who also have made a lasting impact on society though outstanding professional, voluntary, or philanthropic accomplishments, proving potential for future influence and leadership in their field. This is the first annual presentation of the Recent Alumni Achievement Award.

For more information on the GW Alumni Achievement Awards and the GW Alumni Association, please visit
For more news about GW, visit the GW News Center at

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