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Gupta's father, Vinod, began the memorial speaking proudly of his son's accomplishments that include working for former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as well as the State Department. The family reported Gupta, 28, died in his sleep. Michelle Rattinger | Senior Photo Editor

Correction appended

Family and friends gathered Thursday to remember Benjamin Gupta, a 28-year-old law and business student who died in his sleep Monday.

An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death.

Jess Gupta remembered the comedic faces his brother used to make at family functions – faces he said he was “grateful” he was able to see just a month ago during Thanksgiving.

“I’ll keep him in my heart forever, and I know all of you will do the same,” Jess Gupta said.

Kris Balderston, the managing director of the Global Partnership Initiative, said Gupta brought his unique listening, problem solving and comedic skills to the office daily.

“He was an old wise man trapped in a young man’s body and a member of the State Department family,” Balderston said.

The JD and MBA candidate worked as a partnership coordinator for the Global Partnership Initiative – a program that brings together public and private groups to collaborate on diaspora, economic, health and sustainability-related projects.

Vinod Gupta said it was “not easy” to send his son off to private school at the age of 14, as he was “continuously worried about his health and happiness.”

Gupta attended the Phillips Exeter Academy and Boston University, where he received a bachelor of arts in economics and psychology. The Omaha, Neb. native worked as a staff assistant for then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., in 2007.

The family asked that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to the World Education Foundation in Omaha.

The University will host an additional memorial service when students return to campus in January.

University President Steven Knapp said Gupta’s death was a tragic time for GW as this was the third graduate student to die this semester. Jenny Gonzalez Perdomo died Dec.13 from a sudden illness and Patrick David Casey, an Afghanistan war veteran, died following a physical assault in September.

This post has been updated Dec. 23, 2011 to reflect the following: The Hatchet misspelled Vinod Gupta’s name as Vinoid Gupta.

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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 9:42 a.m.

Law student unexpectedly dies in sleep

Updated at 5:48 p.m.

Law and business school student Benjamin Gupta died Monday in his D.C. home. He was 28 years old.

An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death. Family members told the Omaha World Herald that Gupta died in his sleep.

The JD and MBA candidate worked as a partnership coordinator for the Global Partnership Initiative – a State Department program that brings together public and private groups to collaborate on diaspora, economic, health and sustainability-related projects.

“We were stunned to hear of Ben’s passing, and I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of our stand-out students,” GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie said.

Gupta attended the Phillips Exeter Academy and Boston University, where he received a bachelor of arts in economics and psychology. The Omaha, Neb. native worked as a staff assistant for then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., in 2007.

A memorial service will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Joseph Gawler’s Sons Funeral Home at 5130 Wisconsin Ave., NW.

The family asked that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to the World Education Foundation in Omaha.

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel delivers the keynote address at Commencement, held Sunday morning on the National Mall. Anne Wernikoff/assistant photo editor

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel delivers the keynote address at Commencement, held the morning of May 17 on the National Mall. Anne Wernikoff/assistant photo editor

GW’s 2009 keynote commencement speaker, Rahm Emanuel, gave nearly the same speech to GW graduates as he did to graduates of Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts school in Bronxville, N.Y.

Aside from sharing some personal memories from his undergraduate experience at Sarah Lawrence, his alma mater, Emanuel’s speech was exactly the same.

You can compare the speech he gave at GW on May 17 to the speech he gave at Sarah Lawrence five days later.

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This is an express transcript of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s commencement speech this morning, courtesy of the University’s media relations office. Emanuel was awarded a honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks at University-wide Commencement on Sunday morning. University President Steven Knapp (left) and Board of Trustees Chairman Russ Ramsey flank the keynote speaker. Anne Wernikoff/Assistant photo editor.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks at University-wide Commencement Sunday morning on the National Mall. University President Steven Knapp (left) and GW Board of Trustees Chairman Russ Ramsey flank the keynote speaker. Anne Wernikoff/Assistant photo editor.

PRESIDENT KNAPP: Ladies and gentlemen, our commencement speaker, Doctor Rahm Emanuel.

MR. EMANUEL: “Doctor.” I just want you to know that you’ve made one Jewish mother happy in Chicago –
(Laughter.)
– who spent many a sleepless night wondering what would happen to her middle son.
(Laughter.)
I listened to that introduction. I actually wish my parents were here, because I know my mother would be proud and my father would be amazed.
(Laughter.)
President, Mr. Chairman, and the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty, proud parents, family, friends, and above all the graduating class of 2009: Congratulations.
(Applause.)
I also want to thank George Washington University for bestowing this honorary degree. This is actually the second honorary degree I’ve received this year. Just last week I was awarded an honorary degree for my contribution in the field of linguistics, particularly my work in four-letter words.
(Laughter.)
This is a wonderful day for all of you, as you mark the end of one great effort and the beginning of another. You’ve taken on difficult assignments, passed tough exams. You’ve pored over course packets late into the night and into the early morning. You’ve worked hard. You’ve also played hard. You’ve stumbled and gotten back up, occasionally as a consequence of playing hard. You also did your fair share of growing up over the past four years.

Read more…

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009 3:01 a.m.

Rahm Emanuel will be Commencement speaker

This post was written by Lauren French and Sarah Scire.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

Update, 3:50 p.m. Emanuel will be the Commencement speaker, the University confirmed in a news release. Jeanne Narum, president of Project Kaleidoscope and the Independent College Office, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science, and GW alumnus and sculptor John Safer will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.

In the release, University President Steven Knapp said the three honorees “exemplify the University’s ideals of excellence, leadership and service.”

Original Post. Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Barack Obama, will be this year’s Commencement speaker, two sources directly involved in the keynote speaker selection process told The Hatchet Tuesday evening.

Nothing has been confirmed by the University or Emanuel’s office, and both sources asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. A source provided The Hatchet with an e-mail from Senior Vice President and General Counsel Beth Nolan to the Special Advisory Committee on Commencement Speakers stating Emanuel had accepted University President Steven Knapp’s invitation to speak at the ceremony on May 17.

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario declined to confirm Emanuel was the speaker in an interview shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. Schario did not deny that the former Illinois congressman had accepted the invitation, however.

“I can’t confirm anything related to the Commencement speaker yet,” Schario said.

One committee member, Associate Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services Peter Konwerski, said in an interview Tuesday evening that he knew they had been considering someone in the Obama administration, but he had not yet read Nolan’s e-mail. Konwerski added Wednesday morning that the committee had nominated Emanuel, among other candidates, for Knapp’s approval.

The White House press office did not immediately return requests for comment as of Wednesday morning.

Eric Roper contributed to this report.

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