To Assist Students and Raise University Stature, Schar School Alum Colin Hart Leads by Example

A man in a gray suit stands next to a woman in a beige dress as they smile at the camera.
Benefactor meets beneficiary: Colin Hart, left, and Marisol Maddox: ‘Scholarships provide the ability for students to attend Mason, providing a pathway to higher education, and a greater likelihood of a successful and rewarding career,’ said Hart.

After earning an undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Virginia in 1989, Colin Hart continued his higher education in Egypt and France, returning a few years later to the U.S. with the intention of studying law. Ever the forward thinker, Hart gave the profession an audition, working as a paralegal at a Washington, D.C., law firm.

After a number of very late nights at work it dawned on me that I was not made to sit at a desk drafting endless memorandums,” Hart said. Instead, “I wanted to do transactions rather than document them.”

For that, he needed more knowledge. His father, career CIA officer Howard Hart, sent him “a very small advertisement in the Washington Post for [George Mason University’s] new master’s program in international trade and commerce,” Colin said. The convenience—he lived walking distance from Mason’s Arlington Campus where the graduate classes were taught—and affordability were ideal for his needs. He was also impressed that many of the professors were practitioners in their field, which added substantially to classroom dynamics.

Little did Hart realize in 1991 when he began the program, now called Global Commerce and Policy, that he would receive more than a master’s degree: Hart began a noteworthy connection with his alma mater that continues 31 years after his 1993 graduation.

After first volunteering as an ad hoc member of the Schar School of Policy and Government’s alumni chapter, he served as its president for more than two years, organizing galas, speaker events, and social outings, as well as supporting current students with career assistance, job fairs, and a mentoring program.

While he appreciated his diploma, “my logic was that the piece of paper on my wall would be just that if alumni didn’t actively participate in promoting and improving the university, particularly in the eyes of its graduates,” he said.

After more than eight years of working with Schar School graduates, Hart is now on the board of trustees of the George Mason University Foundation and serves as chair of the investment committee. The Foundation is the nonprofit entity that manages and invests private gifts made in support of the university. As part of his Foundation duties, Hart is actively involved with supporting the current Mason comprehensive capital campaign entitled Mason Now: Power the Possible. This five-year, $1 billion campaign will support and grow Mason’s global and domestic ascension.

“I feel particularly grateful to serve on the board of the Foundation and being involved with the management of the university’s endowment,” said Hart, who is managing partner of the Alexandria, Virginia-based private equity firm Freedom Development. “It complements my background in investments and asset management.”

To support the Schar School and Mason, Hart and his brother Guy established the Howard P. Hart Memorial Scholarship Fund, a gift that provides significant scholarships for Schar School students. The Harts have given more than $100,000 to date in combined contributions to ensure its legacy.

“Scholarships provide the ability for students to attend Mason, providing a pathway to higher education and a greater likelihood of a successful and rewarding career,” Hart said. “For the donor, the impact is intangible yet highly rewarding as you have bettered society by aiding your fellow Patriot.”

One such scholarship recipient is Marisol Maddox, who graduated in 2021 with a master’s degree in international security and now serves as senior Arctic analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an operational research analyst at PolArctic LLC, an oceanographic and data science company that creates products tailored for the Artic.

“I was very fortunate to receive the Howard P. Hart Endowed Scholarship not just once but twice from the generous Hart family,” she said. “In and of itself this scholarship was an honor to receive as Howard P. Hart was a trailblazing patriot who left a legendary legacy of service to our country. As a graduate student working full time while going to school in the evenings, I was very appreciative of the financial support for my education.”

When students are supported, Hart suggests, the entire university benefits.

“The brightest students often have financial support from competing educational institutions,” he said. “For Mason to attract the largest number of talented students it is critical to provide more than an excellent education. Mason will need to offer financial support to act as the catalyst in a student’s decision to come to the university. 

“I want to contribute to Mason’s rise as a respected and globally known university where you can receive a good education at a feasible price.”

If you would like to get involved with the Schar School alumni network please reach out to Nicole Kelleher at nkelleh@gmu.eduTo make an impact on students’ lives, consider making a gift using this link. To learn more about the various ways you can support the Schar School of Policy and Government, please contact Cindy Michelson at