As Thomas LeBlanc began his tenure Tuesday as the 17th president of the George Washington University, more than 100 GW community members gathered to greet him, with students meeting him outside his F Street House on the Foggy Bottom Campus and leading him toward a cheering crowd waiting outside of Rice Hall.
LeBlanc told the group the experience of being on a new campus had him feeling like a freshman: He knows how to get to his home and to work, he said. He asked the community to say “hi” if they see him around campus—particularly if he looks lost, he joked.
In a message to the university community, LeBlanc said Tuesday that GW is a “special place—a world-class university with the power to transform the lives of so many.” He added that he and his wife, Anne, have been grateful for the warm welcome from GW, and they look forward to meeting many more members of the community soon.
“Anne and I are thankful to be part of this vibrant community and tremendously excited for the opportunities ahead,” he wrote. The LeBlancs will live in the F Street House, which serves as the president’s residence and a gathering space for various university events.
In the coming weeks, LeBlanc will criss-cross GW’s campuses for meetings and events. Employees will have the opportunity to meet him at this month’s Proud to Be GW festivals, which will feature free food, music and games on the Foggy Bottom Campus on Aug. 10 and Virginia Science and Technology Campus on Aug. 22. On Aug. 26, LeBlanc will welcome students and their families on Move-In Day. LeBlanc also will chair the first meeting of the 2017-18 Faculty Senate on Sept. 8.
An accomplished academic leader, LeBlanc most recently was executive vice president, provost and professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Miami. He was both the chief academic officer and the chief budget officer, responsible for the university’s 11 schools and colleges, the library system, the division of student affairs, the division of continuing and international education and undergraduate education, admissions and financial aid.
LeBlanc’s appointment, announced in January, concluded a months-long process led by the Presidential Search Committee, which unanimously recommended his hire. The search committee worked in consultation with the elected Faculty Consultative Committee, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and with input from university and local community members in more than 30 town halls.
LeBlanc succeeds Steven Knapp, who completed 10 years as GW president before stepping down on Monday.
In remarks following the announcement of his selection, LeBlanc said his life has been defined by education, and particularly by higher education, where he has spent his entire professional career. LeBlanc said that he believes higher education is a force for social mobility and that he looks forward to continuing to enhance GW’s strengths.
Serving as president of the largest university in the District, “at this moment in time, in this great city,” is an honor—as well as a challenge and “incredibly exciting adventure,” LeBlanc said then.
And on Tuesday, LeBlanc ended his impromptu remarks outside Rice Hall saying, “If we’re not having fun, we’re doing something wrong.”