Bicentennial Kickoff Scheduled for Feb. 9

The virtual opening ceremony will coincide with the 200th anniversary of “Charter Day.”

January 8, 2021

Bicentennial Opening Ceremony image

The George Washington University will kick off its bicentennial celebrations with a virtual opening ceremony on Feb. 9, the 200th anniversary of the 1821 congressional act that established the university. The “Charter Day” event will highlight two centuries of GW moments and include discussions with current President Thomas LeBlanc, former university Presidents Steven Knapp and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, and Reena Ninan, B.A. ’01, journalist and founder of Good Trouble Productions.

You must register for the opening ceremony.

Other celebrations marking GW’s historic milestone—including a bicentennial film series, celebratory events highlighting the university’s schools, the launch of a bicentennial website and a focus on distinguished alumni—will continue throughout 2021 and culminate with Colonials Weekend Oct. 1-3.

“The bicentennial is a celebration of our successes and accomplishments; of teaching, research and community building,” said Donna Arbide, vice president for development and alumni relations. “More than anything, the bicentennial is about the people who have made GW great.”

The 60-minute opening ceremony will highlight the international and academic impact of GW and feature a cross-section of faculty, students and alumni. In addition to the three GW presidents, the program will include participation from Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs M. Brian Blake, current Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights, J.D. ’82,  actor, producer and activist Kerry Washington, B.A. '98, HON '13, and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, B.A. ’93. The virtual festivities will feature musical entertainment; short films on student life at GW through the years and historic moments in faculty research; and student readings from the university’s charter.

Throughout the year, bicentennial events will trace GW’s growth from humble origins to a comprehensive, global research university in the heart of the nation’s capital. In telling GW’s story throughout its 200-year history and into its future, celebrations will follow the university’s journey from the first class of 20 students and six faculty members to a home for 27,000 students, thousands of faculty and staff, and more than 300,000 alumni worldwide.

Many of the bicentennial themes will chart the legacy of the university through faculty, alumni and student accomplishments. Other themes involve honoring alumni leaders, innovators and artists over the centuries and recognizing prominent student achievements.

Likewise, the bicentennial will acknowledge the university’s historic connections to Washington, D.C., institutions and communities, highlighting the “Only at GW” experiences—internships, protests and celebrations, debates and discoveries—that have become a GW hallmark.

The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted some planned in-person events to remote ceremonies, noted Sarah Baldassaro, interim vice president for communications and marketing. Still she stressed the importance of marking this historic milestone and engaging the GW community in reflecting on the impact GW has had and will continue to have through generations of students, faculty and staff dedicated to making a difference in the world.

“This is a chance for all of us—alumni, faculty, students and staff—to reflect on the role GW has played in forging lifetime experiences that helped us become who we are today, to highlight the important contributions GW has made to the greater good and to look forward to the impact GW will continue to have in its third century,” she said.