President Thomas LeBlanc told a group of local community members that GW is committed to being a good neighbor.
George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc and his wife, Anne, met some of their new neighbors on Tuesday as Dr. LeBlanc addressed the FRIENDS group, which comprises Foggy Bottom and other area residents who engage and collaborate with the university on community matters.
“I realize that any university has a big impact on its surrounding community, and it’s important to work with neighbors, to be good neighbors,” Dr. LeBlanc told dozens of attendees who had gathered for a dinner and conversation with the LeBlancs.
The LeBlancs live in the F Street House on GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus, which, because of its location in the heart of D.C., is near many District residents.
Dr. LeBlanc—who has spent his entire career in higher education, most recently as executive vice president, provost and professor of computer science at the University of Miami—said he feels fortunate to be in such a historic neighborhood and that he has spent his first month at GW walking through campus and learning more about his new surroundings and the different groups of people who live here.
“If you spend most of your day around 18- to 22-year-olds, it keeps you young. I’m 97,” Dr. LeBlanc joked. “So trust me, it works. It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about being at a university.”
The “tremendous resources” universities offer surrounding communities are also a great benefit, Dr. LeBlanc added.
“We have athletics events, we have artistic events, we have speeches, we have all sorts of interesting things,” he said. Many opportunities are open to or even free or discounted for neighbors. “And one of the reasons cities are chosen as great places to retire, or great places to live, is because of the impact of the university that’s nearby. And we want to be that university for you.”
Neighbors also had the opportunity to ask Dr. LeBlanc questions, and they spent time discussing diversity and inclusion, neighborhood retail, Dr. LeBlanc’s background (he’s originally from Plattsburgh, N.Y., near the Canadian border), hobbies (he’s a “sports nut,” he said) and even the LeBlancs’ pet status (they have a cat but no “immediate plans” to get a dog).
Dr. LeBlanc also reminded the group that he and others, including the Office of Government and Community Relations, which manages the FRIENDS meetings and serves as neighbors’ main point of contact on any issue, want to keep an open dialogue.
“If you’ve got suggestions, I’d love to hear them,” he said.
The university is currently searching for a new director of community relations to replace Britany Waddell, who recently left GW for a new career opportunity and attended her last FRIENDS meeting on Tuesday.