Charles E. Bush, SIS/BA ’68, and Judith Lewis Bush, SIS/BA ’68, carry deeply imprinted connections to American University. They met as incoming students on their first day in AU’s School of International Studies (SIS), fell in love, and married after graduating. AU’s campus is also where they learned about dramatic global events as they unfolded, from the war in Vietnam and the rise of Suharto in Indonesia to the Cultural Revolution in China and the death of Che Guevara.
“So many things were happening at that time around the world,” noted Charles. “And so much at home—Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.”
In the decades that followed, Judy and Charles’s interest in the world never waned, nor did their connection to their alma mater. After years of steady donations to AU, the Bushes stepped up their commitment in February by establishing the Charles and Judy Bush Endowed Fund for SIS Student Support. Through their personal contribution and a partial matching gift via Charles’s former employer, the Bush Fund channels support to two existing current-use funds: the SIS Internship Fund and the SIS Emergency Fund.
The SIS Internship Fund offers financial assistance to SIS undergraduate and graduate students who seek unpaid summer internships. The SIS Emergency Fund helps SIS students facing temporary hardships that threaten to derail their studies.
The Bushes said the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, motivated them to focus on student needs.
“COVID interrupted all of our lives and brought hardship issues to many,” said Charles. “We were particularly troubled when we realized what was happening to students during COVID.”
The Bushes said their involvement in planning the 50th anniversary of their SIS graduating class was the springboard for their deepened engagement with AU. They helped form a small committee a year and a half before the event and used an alumni contact sheet provided by AU to reach out to classmates. Both Judy and Charles described the anniversary celebration as “a grand reunion.”
“It was remarkable to see these people,” said Judy. “There were lots of hugs. It was done during the AU’s All-American Weekend. We were honored as Golden Eagles and received pendant ribbons.” Golden Eagles are alumni celebrating their 50th (or more) graduation anniversary.
Judy’s family lived in Texas when she applied to AU in the mid-1960s. The draw for her was the number of international students enrolled at AU. “I thought it would be interesting,” she explained. She minored in secondary education, took French courses, and worked as a student teacher during her time at AU. She then taught French after marrying.
Charles, who grew up in Illinois, liked the idea of learning about international diplomacy and the prospect of living in “a very exciting location.” He also had a family connection to Washington, DC— his mother’s hometown. He “fell in love with” a sophomore year accounting course and ended up with a degree in international business, a minor in accounting, and a long career with Caterpillar.
Following the 50th reunion, Charles began connecting with SIS classmates every quarter via Zoom for focused conversations on topics as far-ranging as critical race theory and refugees.
“We have members of our cohort whose parents or grandparents fled the Nazis and one man whose parents were placed in an internment camp during World War II because they were Japanese,” Charles said. “Then we think about refugees and Ukraine.”
A Zoom meeting in March spread the conversation even further by including students from the Class of 2022.
“We wondered what the students graduating in 2022 were thinking. Like us in 1968, they were graduating at a time of crisis. So, we thought it would be interesting to have a cross-generational discussion, including about careers,” said Charles.
The Bushes value AU for “nurturing and challenging” them as students and for being the place where they fell in love. Today, through the Bush Fund, they exemplify the spirit of service their SIS education provided by ensuring a more equitable and affordable AU education for generations to come.