GW Today looks back at top stories from seniors’ time on campus.
By Ruth Steinhardt
It was the summer of “Get Lucky,” royal baby mania and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington when the class of 2017 arrived at the George Washington University. On May 21, they’ll cross the stage on the National Mall as graduates. As seniors prepare for the next phase of their lives, we’re taking a look back at some of George Washington Today’s top stories and memorable cultural moments from their years as GW students.
Freshman Year: 2013-2014
- Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia visited Lisner Auditorium to reminisce about his 30 years on the highest bench in the country.
- Students from GW, Catholic University and American University teamed up to build a sustainable home for the Department of Energy’s prestigious Solar Decathlon.
- Beyoncé unexpectedly released her self-titled album at the end of the fall semester, ensuring that new students returned from winter break with something to talk about. (Queen B would almost bookend the class of 2017’s time at GW, dropping “Lemonade” in April 2016.)
- Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited campus twice in January, first to discuss her memoir “My Beloved World” and then to join the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly established Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics.
- The university received three gifts totaling a record-breaking $80 million from the Milken Institute, the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation, focusing on prevention of disease and promotion of wellness. The subsequently renamed Milken Institute School of Public Health building opened in May.
- José Andrés’ self-deprecating and powerful commencement speech, which featured video cameos by celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow, was one of the university’s most popular.
Sophomore Year: 2014-2015
- The year’s biggest story was former President Obama’s visit to Lisner to appear on a special episode of comedy news powerhouse “The Colbert Report.” The president discussed immigration, the Affordable Care Act and the Keystone pipeline before an excited crowd of GW community members.
- Celebrities from Alexander Ovechkin to Oprah Winfrey took the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” drenching themselves in cold water to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- José Andrés’ reign as GW’s favorite chef continued as he announced that he would bring his first fast-casual restaurant, Beefsteak, to the Science and Engineering Hall in 2015.
- Many students had the chance to see a childhood hero in action when popular educator Bill Nye visited Lisner Auditorium to advocate for critical thought in America.
- Blake D. Morant began his tenure as dean of the GW Law School, while Linda Livingstone became dean of the GW School of Business.
- The Colonial Health Center opened in January, offering a central location for medical, counseling, prevention and health promotion services.
- Several new institutions opened their doors: Faculty moved into the university’s Science and Engineering Hall in December, and more than 2,000 visitors attended opening celebrations for the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum in March.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement address, urging students: "No matter what you do next, the world needs your energy, your passion, your impatience with progress."
Junior Year: 2015-2016
- New leaders abounded at the beginning of the year. Ambassador Reuben Brigety became dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs; Pam Jeffries became dean of the School of Nursing; and GW incorporated the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design with longtime arts advocate and educator Sanjit Sethi at the helm.
- Pope Francis paid his historic visit to Washington, D.C., spending much of his time within a walking radius of the Foggy Bottom campus.
- Fascinating faculty research came to the forefront in three of the year’s most-read stories: a professor of anthropology’s work on 400-year-old skeletons at Machu Picchu, an instructional librarian’s high-flying analysis of Harry Potter and a museum studies professor’s key role in preserving Star Wars’ C-3PO.
- Retired Daily Show host Jon Stewart anchored Colonials Weekend in October with two sold-out performances.
- The class of 2017's last semester as juniors was marked by a record-breaking winter storm.
- In February, newsman Anderson Cooper discussed the challenges and rewards of his career as an openly gay journalist with a major national platform.
- Sen. Cory Booker was the year’s commencement speaker.
- As junior year came to a close, George Washington President Steven Knapp announced his intent to retire as president after a decade of service.
Senior Year: 2016-2017
- At GW and across the nation, the year’s biggest story was Donald Trump’s surprise election to the presidency. For GW students, it was the best of times and the worst of times.
- In the aftermath, students came together at the traditional GW inaugural ball. The Women’s March in January made a cappella group the GW Sirens part of a viral video that gained them 14 million views and bookings on national television. Unsurprisingly, GW students were named among the top most politically active for the fourth year in a row.
- Senator and onetime presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., visited campus three times: once shortly after the election to discuss his memoir, once to discuss President Trump’s cabinet confirmation hearings and once to debate health care with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) .
- The university also hosted several more live CNN town halls, one with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), speaker of the House, on health care repeal and immigration reform, and one with Sens. Lindsay Graham (R.-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
- November’s national election wasn’t the only presidential turnover. Thomas LeBlanc was named successor to Dr. Knapp as the 17th president of GW, calling it an “incredibly exciting adventure.”
- GW’s newest residence hall, District House, opened its doors to almost 900 residents in September. Since the opening, hit fast-casual restaurants like Chick-fil-A, Peet’s Coffee and Wiseguy NY Pizza have opened to lines of devotees.
- Supreme Court legend Ruth Bader Ginsberg came to Lisner in February to discuss gender equality, immigration rights and what really makes America great. In fact, the class of 2017 has had three chances to see the Notorious RBG in action: She spoke at Constitution Day their sophomore year and, a few months later, discussed friendship across ideological lines with Justice Scalia. Fellow Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer also came to campus.
- The class’s highly-anticipated commencement speaker is Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D.-Ill.), M.A. ’92, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient.