Thousands Celebrate 2011 Colonials Weekend

October 13, 2011

Three days of lectures, performances, musical acts and more marked the annual weekend.

Bright sun and blue skies served as the perfect backdrop for the thousands of family and friends who descended on George Washington’s Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses for Colonials Weekend Oct. 14-16.

The weekend kicked off Friday night with the university’s biggest show of GW spirit, Colonials Invasion, in the renovated Charles E. Smith Center. The event included giveaways, dunk and three-point contests, music and dance performances, and a special effect-filled introduction of the GW men’s and women’s basketball teams.

On Saturday morning, university leaders, including President Steven Knapp and Vice President for External Relations Lorraine Voles, spoke to parents and students about all that George Washington has to offer at the Colonials Weekend Welcome in Lisner Auditorium.

Dr. Knapp spoke about the “spirit of service” on campus and highlighted the university’s recent selection as host of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative University

He also detailed important campus initiatives and changes, including a new vice provost for diversity and inclusion, enhancements to GW’s career services and a new director of athletics and recreation.

“We really are working hard to make sure that we have a life on campus here that is as rich and compelling as what’s available to our students off campus,” said Dr. Knapp.

In her keynote address, Ms. Voles, B.A. ’81, spoke about her experience as an undergraduate at George Washington, telling the audience that her time as a student at GW prepared her for her career, which has spanned more than 25 years in corporate and political communications including positions with former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Ms. Voles said she got her first job using the GW Career Center and urged parents to encourage their students to build relationships and use the resources and opportunities available at George Washington.

“There are some unique experiences [at GW] that students at other universities would never have,” said Ms. Voles.

That afternoon, families and local residents carved pumpkins and sampled fall desserts at the Mount Vernon Campus’ annual Octoberfest, the popular outdoor festival organized by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Mount Vernon Programming Council.

A sold-out performance by comedian Bill Maher in the Charles E. Smith Center closed the day’s activities. Introduced by George Washington Provost Steven Lerman, the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” entertained the audience with his take on a number of political and religious topics, including the Republican presidential candidates and the Tea Party movement.

Sunday began with live music at the annual Jazz Brunch in GW’s Marvin Center. Other activities included Colonials volleyball and women’s soccer games and the Ninth Annual Foggy Bottom/West End Neighborhood Block Party on the Eye Street Mall. A community tradition, the block party featured a variety of local food and craft vendors and musical and dance performances, and included remarks by Dr. Knapp and D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans.

“This year's block party was a huge success. We highlighted new performers and were happy to welcome back some of our old favorites,” said Assistant Director of Community Relations Leah Kreimer. “Over 3,000 students, families and neighbors came out to celebrate a great event. The weather was beautiful! We could not have asked for a more perfect day.”

Other weekend highlights included the Deans’ Breakfasts, Office of Parent Services Silent Auction, “Classes From GW's Best” and a Cabaret Showcase.

The 2011 Colonials Weekend was the first for parents Cory Benson and Dennis O’Connor from Newtown, Conn., whose daughter Kendra O’Connor is a senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs. They attended two “Classes from GW’s Best” as well as Octoberfest and Bill Maher, and said the weekend gave them as sense of “what the school was all about.”

“It’s been a fun opportunity to spend some time with Kendra,” said Ms. Benson. “She’s a senior, and it’s all happened so fast! She’s had a great experience here, and it seems like yesterday we were here looking at colleges.”

Ms. Benson said Kendra has taken advantage of many opportunities during her four years at George Washington, including study abroad to Buenos Aires, a service trip in the Dominican Republic and the inauguration of President Barack Obama on the National Mall.

“George Washington was Kendra’s first choice; she wasn’t interested in any other school but GW,” added Ms. Benson. “We are always talking to people about the university. She’s had a real-life experience here.”

Executive Director of Parent Services Rodney L. Johnson said Parent Services, part of the Division of Student and Academic Support Services, is already hard at work planning for Colonials Weekend 2012, which will be held Oct. 19-21.