Called to Be: Access & Excellence

Title:$4M gift supports ‘amazing vision’ for Georgetown men’s basketball program

Author: Lauren Poteat
Date Published: June 4, 2024
Coach Cooley with the Welches
Coach Cooley with the Welches

A $4 million gift from Ambassador David Welch (SFS’75) and Gretchen Welch, longtime supporters of Georgetown Athletics and student-athlete mental health, will advance the men’s basketball program by establishing an endowed fund in support of the athletic director’s priorities and a current use fund for new initiatives led by Head Coach Ed Cooley. 

“This gift from the Welch family reflects an extraordinary commitment to the role of intercollegiate athletics and the formation of our student-athletes,” says Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. “It will enable transformative experiences and provide invaluable support to our basketball program as we look to its future. We’re deeply grateful to David and Gretchen for their generosity and their service to Georgetown.”

Half of the Welches’ gift is an endowment supporting special initiatives led by Lee Reed, Francis X. Rienzo Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. 

“We are immensely grateful to David and Gretchen for this significant display of support for the future of our men’s basketball program under Coach Cooley’s leadership,” says Reed. “Their generous gift makes a profound statement to our student-athletes, coaching staff, and greater community.”

The second half of the gift will support the operational needs of Head Coach Ed Cooley. In gratitude, the men’s basketball practice gym in the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center will be renamed in their honor.

“I started at Georgetown in 1971, just before Coach Thompson Jr. came on board, so I grew up with the proudest period of Hoya basketball,” says Ambassador Welch. “Gretchen and I want Georgetown’s student-athletes to be happy to be here. We want to see them succeed at the highest levels of their sport, and also to be proud, successful people in life off the court or field.” 

“Coach Cooley is the best Big East coach and knows his business inside and out,” continues Ambassador Welch. “This is an investment in him personally and also the university leadership. We’re optimistic about the future of Georgetown men’s basketball.”  

‘An opportunity to live their dreams’

Ed Cooley joined Georgetown University as the men’s basketball team’s head coach in 2023 after a successful 12-year stretch as the head coach of Providence College. Among his accolades is the 2022 Naismith Coach of the Year Award. With an overall record of 334–223, which includes time as the head coach at Fairfield University, Cooley says that he is excited about the possibilities at Georgetown, especially with supporters like the Welch family.

“Georgetown has an amazing vision for the men’s basketball program,” says Cooley, who thinks of the basketball court as a classroom where players learn life lessons like concentration and discipline.

“We want to give these young men an opportunity to live their dreams. Some are first generation college students. We will teach them life skills, for instance financial literacy, and offer them spaces for quiet reflection and study, which include state-of-the-art technology that promotes wellness.”

Welch Family

Cura personalis for athletes

Ambassador David Welch is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Walsh School of Foreign Service. He spent more than 32 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, where he rose to its most senior rank as Career Ambassador, served twice as Assistant Secretary of State, and served as Ambassador to Egypt. After government, David had a successful career in private business with Bechtel. Gretchen, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, was also a Foreign Service Officer for 32 years, rising to its senior ranks. Together they are committed supporters of Georgetown Athletics in general and the basketball program in particular— season ticket holders for many years. 

In 2021, the Welches established the Welch Family Athletics Health and Wellness Current Use Counselor Fund to support a second mental health position for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Their gift, administered by The Amato Family Head of Athletic Counseling Services Dr. Erica Force, has a direct impact on nearly 800 student-athletes. 

“Our family is committed to supporting student-athletes and their mental health,” says Gretchen. “Dr. Force and her team are doing important work in establishing a culture of cura personalis, or care of the whole person. We believe these actions will serve Georgetown student-athletes now and into the future.”