GW, D.C. Leadership Remember Mark Plotkin

Former mayors and other figures spoke about the GW alumnus’ legacy during a memorial service on campus.

Mark Plotkin memorial service
The stage in Jack Morton Auditorium was lined with memorabilia of Mark Plotkin’s including books, awards, press passes, his degree from GW and other items for his memorial service. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
January 10, 2020

At the memorial service for journalist, political commentator and George Washington University alumnus Mark Plotkin, B.A. ’69, the stage in Jack Morton Auditorium was lined with memorabilia of Mr. Plotkin’s including books, awards, press passes, his degree from GW, a bust of George Washington and a T-shirt advocating for D.C. statehood, for which Mr. Plotkin was a well-known advocate.

It was just as Mr. Plotkin had wanted, down to the music played.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc spoke about Mr. Plotkin’s commitment to D.C., the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award Mr. Plotkin received and the collection of papers Mr. Plotkin donated to GW in 2018, which includes commentaries, personal documents and an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.

“We are grateful to have been part of Mark’s history, and we are honored to be entrusted with preserving his legacy,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “Mark’s papers will endure here at GW as Mark said he wanted.”

D.C. Councilmember and former Mayor Vincent Gray (D), B.S. ’64, was a classmate and fraternity brother of Mr. Plotkin. Mr. Gray shared some memories during the service, including how Mr. Plotkin was animated and vocal during every GW home basketball game.

"He was, as some have described him, cantankerous, a character, he was absolutely relentless,” Mr. Gray said. “It all, frankly, redounded to the benefit of those of us who lived in the District of Columbia and watched him operate."

Former Mayor Sharon Pratt spoke on Mr. Plotkin’s advocacy for D.C. statehood, and how she was always amazed that someone from Chicago became consumed with the mission to bring full citizenship rights to D.C. residents and make D.C. the 51st state. Mr. Plotkin spearheaded the campaign to change the slogan on D.C. license plates to “Taxation Without Representation.”

She said it was poetic that the D.C. Council formally called for statehood during a hearing last fall in the House of Representatives—the first of its kind in more than 20 years—and Mr. Plotkin died just three days later.

 “We who live here and claim this as our home were blessed indeed because his all-consuming purpose was that we of the District of Columbia should one day enjoy political empowerment and political equality,” she said.