Class of 2018 Commemorates ‘First Night’ at Historic Mount Vernon Estate

The university’s present and future celebrate legacy of George Washington.

First Night 2014
The sun was nearly setting as members of the Class of 2018 made their way through the Mount Vernon Estate for the inaugural First Night celebration at the historic home of the country's first president.
August 25, 2014

By Brittney Dunkins

Conversations ranged from “getting-to-know-you” banter to awe on Saturday evening, as nearly 2,000 members of the George Washington University class of 2018 kicked off the academic year with the 2014 First Night at the Mount Vernon Estate—the historic home of university namesake George Washington.

First Night was an opportunity for students to overcome jitters, engage in conversation with classmates, explore the history of the country’s first president and reflect on his values: civility, integrity, citizenship, leadership and respect.

It also marked the first year that the annual welcome event was held at the Mount Vernon Estate, located in Mount Vernon, Va.

“This historic place and GW are linked through George Washington,” Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Steven Lerman said. “We hope that this is the start of a process for students that will last all four years of inculcating the values that Washington exemplified as a leader.”

The Division of Student Affairs Administration and Hallmark Programs organized the event with the generous support of DC Scottish Rite, the Masonic and Eastern Star Homes and GW parent Mario Grauso, as well as in-kind donors, bocce and bowling bistro Pinstripes, the Corner Bakery, the GW Campus Store, Coca-Cola and Sodexo. DSA also worked closely with Jamie Bosket, M.A. ´08, vice president of guest experience at the Mount Vernon Estate.

The celebration marked the start of Welcome Week and, hopefully, the beginning of a GW tradition.

“We hope to begin a new tradition of bringing each freshman class to the Mount Vernon Estate for our version of ‘A Night at the Museum,’” Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said. “I remember my first trip to the estate and the significant impact it had on me as a young person, so it’s very exciting to know that the students are able to experience this as a class.”

It was a collision of past and present as students posed for a selfie with a reenactor dressed as university namesake George Washington on the steps of the historic Mount Vernon Estate mansion. 

Student Association President Nick Gumas welcomed students, reminding them to “be proactive and be yourself.”

SA Executive Vice President Avra Bossov said that she hoped students would consider George Washington’s credo, “deeds not words.”

“It’s a lesson that I’ve taken to heart which has profoundly affected my GW experience,” Ms. Bossov said.

Assistant Professor of History and Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising Tom Long, an expert in U.S. British relations in the 1800s, served as the keynote speaker.

He recounted the historical significance of Washington as a “master of state craft” and "a surveyor, a soldier, a statesman and a political genius.”

Students also interacted with history as they toured the home and grounds and spoke with actors posing as historical characters, including George and Martha Washington.

“I love history and my grandfather taught me all about Martha Washington, so this has been phenomenal,” said incoming Columbian College of Arts and Sciences freshman Kathleen Hunt. “Everyone has also been really willing to introduce themselves.”

Daniel McManus and Charlotte Johnston, two incoming Elliott School of International Affairs students, said that the event was a great opportunity to meet other members of the freshman class.

“I actually just met Daniel while walking over here, so clearly it’s already working,” Ms. Johnston said, laughing.  “I think this is a positive thing.”

Mr. McManus agreed.

“It’s been great so far, and I’m interested to see what is going to happen next,” Mr. McManus said, surveying the crowd of students.

“I’m also looking forward to dessert,” he added.

Students ended the evening with an informal dance party led by Colonial Cabinet members and resident advisors. A dessert reception and shouts of “huzzah” for a traditional toast led by the George Washington reenactor, followed the dance party. 

Welcome Week is held Aug. 23 to Sept. 6. George Washington Today has listed highlights below.

Student Performance Showcase and Dessert Reception

Monday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.

Lisner Auditorium and Kogan Plaza


Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 4 p.m.

Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library and Kogan Plaza

Milken Institute School of Public Health Student and Recent Alumni Career Panel

Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m.

Milken Institute SPH, Room 100A

The Federal Work Study Job Fair

Thursday, Aug. 28 at 1 p.m.

Marvin Center, Continental Ballroom

Academic Success: the Do’s and Don’ts of Your College Experience

Friday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m.

Marvin Center, Room 302

10th Annual Multicultural Student Service Block Party

Friday, Aug. 29 at 4 p.m.

Marvin Center, Third Floor Terrace

Sustainability Open House

Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. 

Marvin Center, Room 302