Edward “Skip” Gnehm, BA ’66, MA ’68, wasn’t aiming for GW’s acting president when he launched a water balloon off the roof of his fraternity house; it just happened to land on him.
“As any student would do on a nice spring day, I got involved in a massive water balloon fight,” said Gnehm, the former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, Australia, and Jordan, and currently GW’s Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs.
It must have been these kinds of situations that Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY), BBA ’66, was referring to when he spoke at a lunch celebrating alumni during President Steven Knapp’s Inauguration. Enzi told the crowd that he and Gnehm – roommates at GW and lifelong friends – were “normal” college students and agreed a long time ago not to share stories about each other.
Regardless of any agreements, Gnehm has plenty of stories to tell about his time at GW and his experiences following graduation, when he was ducking from bullets instead of balloons. As a 36-year member of the United States Foreign Service, Gnehm has been in the middle of some very hostile situations.
“I think the moment when I felt most endangered was when I was in Beirut when civil war broke out in 1975,” Gnehm said. “I was walking to my apartment from the embassy when bullets started whizzing past me. I dropped down and crawled like a caterpillar three- or four-hundred feet until I could get behind a building.”
Gnehm’s interest in the Foreign Service came about well before he arrived at GW. After sharing his stamp collection with his eighth grade civics teacher, she suggested he look into a career in the Foreign Service and recommended he go to GW.
“I came to GW with a passionate hope that I would work in Foreign
Service,” he said.
“GW meant so much to me as an undergraduate. I came from Georgia, and then I was in the capital and meeting people from all over the world. It was a very impressionable experience. So, I’ve always had a very fond feeling for the University.”
That fond feeling is why Gnehm has stayed very active in the GW community since graduating. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees and vice president of the GW Alumni Association.
“When I went into the service, I spent most of my time abroad and moving all of the time,” Gnehm said. “I felt like I needed an anchor point. The University became part of that anchor for me.”