Events throughout the Centuries Celebration Weekend connected the university’s past, present and future.
By Nick Erickson
A spectacular light display filling up the sky signified to all of Washington, D.C., that George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom campus was the place to be on Saturday night. The sold-out Bicentennial Bash, which closed off Kogan Plaza for an evening filled with food, games and even an acrobat performance was the exclamation point of a weekend celebrating only-at-GW moments for 200 years.
The Bicentennial Bash, a marquee event of the Centuries Celebration Weekend brought together alumni, current students, parents, and friends for a night of community as the urban campus sparkled with images of past and present projected on to the outside Gelman Library.
“This is a remarkable community, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of it,” GW President Thomas LeBlanc said on Saturday night. “Not even a pandemic can keep us from coming together to celebrate this special bicentennial.”
Dr. LeBlanc thanked all the healthcare workers and event organizers for their work ensuring safety protocols were taken all weekend so that everyone who wanted to partake in celebrating GW could do so.
Saturday evening’s celebration was a culmination of momentous events throughout the weekend. On Friday night, GW held a reception and dinner to honor its Monumental Alumni. The group consists of 73 alumni who have make their mark on the greater world by living GW’s mission of engaging as global citizens in their respective fields. Set up in a popup tent covering University Yard, the special event saw some of the prominent members of the GW community mingling over the pride of their institution.
“GW alumni are game changers, laser focused on making a difference in their field, business or profession,” said GW Alumni Association President Christine Brown-Quinn, M.B.A. ’92. “They are individuals who are committed to using their education at GWU for a platform good and making the better world a better place.”
One of Friday night’s more powerful moments was when a group of around 40 GW students, all clad in navy blue sweaters bearing the university’s logo, circled the Monumental Alumni and GW benefactors in the room. Those current students, representing all 10 schools, held up a glass in a toast to thank those in attendance for both their monumental example and continued support. Moments earlier, Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights, J.D. ’82, announced a new initiative opening doors to access education for incoming undergraduate students, especially those who face the greatest financial challenges, starting with this fall’s First-Year Student Class.
“Those of us here tonight are representative of the entire GW community, thousands of aspiring changemakers who are diverse in culture, backgrounds and disciplines,” said senior business administration major Jungwoo Yang, who led the student group in the toast. “You have helped GW grow, so we can grow.”
Also on Friday were receptions for the classes of 2020 and 2021 as well as a decades reunion.
The energy from Friday carried over into Saturday, as Foggy Bottom was buzzing from early in the morning all the way to the end of the Bicentennial Bash. Graduates of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 who came back to for their Commencement celebration on the National Mall lined up for photos by their favorite spots on campus.
Events throughout the course of the day kept the liveliness flowing. In the afternoon, University Yard setup to show the documentary short film series the university put together over the course of the bicentennial. Alumni could also take a trip down memory lane, and current students could show off their living headquarters with the Residential Neighborhood Showcases that offered people the chance to tour various GW residence halls in an event was fully booked.
Bicentennial Bash attendees began lining up near Kogan Plaza nearly an hour before the event started. Some used that opportunity to load up on GW gear at the campus store, which backs up into Kogan Plaza. With buff and blue shirts dotting Kogan Plaza as day turned to night, the Bicentennial Bash was a highlight to a weekend that reminded all who attended—and neighbors close by—what makes GW special. Dr. LeBlanc, Ms. Speights, and Director of Athletics Tanya Vogel gave closing remarks before the acrobats that descended the Gelman Library walls by harness punctuated the night.
“We’ve got a lot to celebrate,” Dr. LeBlanc told to the crowd.
And celebrate GW did all weekend.