My Washington: George Vradenburg

The philanthropist and co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s talks charity, family and favorite D.C. spots.

Trish and George Vradenburg

Trish and (File photo)

What is your philosophy of philanthropy?

We think “giving back” is a matter of character. There are too many issues to go to an island and sip piña coladas from a glass with little umbrellas.

How do you decide to support a particular cause?

We want to make a difference so we invest in projects and organizations where we are playing a leading role … or where we are impressed with the passion and leadership of others. Trish and I are personally taking ownership of stopping Alzheimer’s by 2020 through our new organization USAgainstAlzheimer’s. She’s the “D,” I’m the “R,” but the Alzheimer’s cause is definitely non-partisan.

Do you and your wife focus on different aspects of your joint missions?

She says I’m the brains, but we all know she is. I bring the facts; she leaves them laughing. Humor is what people remember, particularly in this town where everyone has an intense position on everything from the price of cucumbers to the perfect population of polar bears.

How are donors responding to your “No Gala” concept, whereby glitzy parties are replaced by dinners with research scientists?

They’re very popular, much different from the BIG gala experience: intimate, fun and interactive. Donors walk away engaged and enraged … but well-fed. Can’t beat that combo.

What advice would you give a budding philanthropist?

Get rich, and then get richer. You may never have enough to heal the world, but more well-leveraged resources can enable you to make a difference.

VRADENBURG’S TOP SPOTS

Washington is coming home for me, living as I did with my grandparents off Military Road while my Dad fought in the South Pacific, and then again when I was stationed at the Naval Air Facility at Andrews AFB right after marrying Trish.

1. Favorite Museum: The Phillips Collection, of course (I’ve chaired the board for almost a decade). It’s an intimate experience with great works of art, intriguing lectures, Sunday afternoon music and those hip First Thursdays.

Photo courtesy of the Phillips Collection.

2. Favorite Restaurant: Any restaurant, but our current favorite is 701.

Photo courtesy of 701 Restaurant.

3. Favorite Saturday Morning Activity: A haircut with at Salon Rafik in Georgetown.

Photo courtesy of Salon Rafik.

4. Favorite Theater: Theater J, where the brilliant mounts an amazing array of fascinating plays (Trish is on the board). Also Studio Theater (’s genius venue).

Photo courtesy of the DC JCC.

5. Newest Non-Alzheimer’s Venture: The University of the District of Columbia’s board of trustees (the lynchpin of an affordable public higher education for District kids).

6. Least Favorite Late-Night Outing: Picking up Trish outside the D.C. City Jail after she was arrested with city leaders and other voting rights activists for protesting our “taxation without representation.”

7. Favorite Time and Place: Anytime, anywhere with Trish (and our puppy, Kiddo).

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