October 17, 2019

Webster University alumni work together through Unlock the Gorlok fundraiser

Tony Garavaglia, Webster University alumnus, poses with the Gorlok as it is “unlocked” to end his fundraising campaign. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JULIANNE SMUTZ

During his senior year in 1994, Webster University alumnus Tony Garavaglia spent the days caring for his sick mother. He went to class at night to pursue his undergraduate degree as a double major in computer science and education with an emphasis in secondary mathematics.

“My mom became really ill with cancer, and she died October of my senior year,” Garavaglia said. “But she wanted to stay at home to die, so I was taking care of her during the day. Webster offered so many night courses that I was able to finish my degree in night classes. And in those classes, I was actually networking with many adult students who were in the working world.”

Garavaglia intended to pursue a career as either a computer programmer or a math professor after graduating from Webster. Garavaglia’s night classes, however, led him to a new opportunity.

“One of the people I was working with happened to be working in the industry I’m in now,” Garavaglia said. “She said, ‘Tony, you’re a pretty smart kid. We have an internship opportunity; why don’t you come and interview for it?’ I wouldn’t have started down (my) career path if I had not met that person in that night class at Webster.”

Garavaglia is currently a Health and Group Benefits consultant at Towers Watson, a company that works with employees to improve work ethic. He has been employed there since July 2000.

Garavaglia recently set up a fundraiser called Unlock the Gorlok. He established the event with the Webster Alumni Association, in hopes of inspiring alumni to support Webster University.

“I recently have gotten re-engaged with Webster University,” Garavaglia said. “I got more involved in the alumni board of directors, and it reenergized my connection to the university. I started to look back on my career and think about how I’ve gotten to where I am. It really went back to the foundation that I built at Webster.”

Unlock the Gorlok is a campaign to raise money by challenging alumni from the 2002-12 classes. To free the Gorlok from “captivity,” these alumni had to donate any sum of money between April 17-30 through the Webster University website. These donations can go to any area of the university they desire. If the foundation receives 100 donations, Garavaglia will donate $5,000 toward student scholarships.

“A lot of charities will lock up their executives to try and raise money,” Julianne Smutz, Webster’s alumni development officer, said. “We dreamed up this fun challenge … to encourage our young alumni.”

Unlock the Gorlok met their goal of receiving 100 gifts on the final day of the fundraiser — Tuesday, April 30.

“We (have) had many new donors who had never made gifts before and wanted to support the students, and wanted to get this gift from Tony,” Smutz said.

The Webster University Alumni Association will organize donations and count how much money it received over the next few days.

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