Donors Make a Difference: Laura and Pete Ragusa


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Laura and Pete Ragusa

After Laura Ragusa, SPA/BA '77, completed a bachelor’s in political science, she remained at American University—for 40 years and counting. Ragusa, now assistant dean for budget and technology in the School of Communication, has held posts across campus, from the School of Public Affairs to the Washington College of Law and WAMU 88.5 to the Office of Student Accounts. And last year, it was in the College of Arts and Sciences’s Battelle Atrium that she married Pete Ragusa, longtime drummer for the Nighthawks, the legendary DC blues band. 

As the Ragusas consider the future, they want to make an impact on AU students’ lives for years to come. “Pete and I have been given some great opportunities, and we hope students have these chances as well,” Laura says. “Pete has traveled the world as a musician. Across the university, I’ve met some amazing, noteworthy people. I think it’s important for students to have these types of transformative learning experiences to travel or intern. 

“As an undergraduate I got a great education, but there wasn’t an opportunity for extras like study abroad or an internship on Capitol Hill due to finances,” Laura continues. “I always felt something was missing.” She wanted to ensure that financial challenges did not limit other students’ opportunities to enjoy the full scope of the American University experience.

Inspired to increase access to an AU education, Laura designated the university a beneficiary of her retirement funds. The gift will create an endowment to support students with financial need to ensure their ability
to participate in the full breadth of the AU experience.

“It’s nice to know that—by creating this endowment—even when I’m gone physically, I’ll still play a part at AU and help people who are in need,” Laura says.

For information on how your charitable estate planning can create a legacy at American University, contact Seth Speyer, executive director of planned giving, at 202-885-3411 or; or visit