A Letter to the University Community from President Steven Knapp

Dr. Knapp talks about his tenure at the George Washington University.

June 7, 2016

President Knapp

George Washington President Steven Knapp became the university's 16th president in August 2007.


To the George Washington University Community:

In December 2006, I was offered the presidency of a great university. It was a university blessed with an extraordinary heritage and what is arguably the best location of any university in the world; blessed also with some of the world’s most active and engaged students, and with a faculty known for its ability to combine theory and practice and to provide its students with what we unabashedly call a front-row seat in the theater of history. I accepted this honor with an enthusiasm that has never waned in the years that followed. 

I was asked at the time by the leadership of our Board of Trustees how long I would expect to serve as president, assuming the Board saw fit to renew my contract after an initial five years. I replied that ten years seemed to me to be the right duration of a university presidency in our era. A shorter tenure would make it hard to carry important projects through to their conclusion; a longer one would deprive the institution of an opportunity to consider fresh ideas and approaches, which are especially valuable in an era of rapid change like the one we are now experiencing across the whole landscape of higher education.

My tenth year as president begins on August 1 of this year. Earlier today I informed the Board that I would not be seeking an additional term and therefore that the coming year would be my last year of service as president of the George Washington University.

In making this announcement, I cannot overstate my gratitude to the countless groups and individuals who, these past nine years, have done so much to ensure our collective success:

  • The Board of Trustees, a body of GW alumni and friends who selflessly contribute their time, talent, and treasure.
  • The unbroken succession of student leaders whose initiatives have had a real and lasting impact on everything we have done to make the experience of our students on campus as rich as what they encounter off campus in this great capital city.
  • The alumni who take time out of their busy careers to mentor our students and open doors for them literally around the world.
  • The deans and faculty members whose efforts have raised our research ranking more than 20 places over the past few years.
  • The dedicated and talented members of my senior administrative team.
  • The students who have spoken out so eloquently about the problems of sexual assault and racial bias that we must address if we are to realize the university’s aspiration to stand as the preeminent community of scholars in the most powerful city in the world.

In addition to all these, I am deeply grateful to my wife Diane for her voluntary role not only in supporting me personally and hosting countless events at the F Street House but in leading so effectively the university’s Urban Food Task Force and serving as a friend and mentor to students committed to the values of sustainability, healthy eating, and food justice. I want to thank the dedicated staff who have done so much to make it possible for Diane and me to live and work in the heart of our Foggy Bottom campus.

I am grateful, finally, for the opportunity to have played a role in what we have achieved together these past nine years, from spectacular new buildings to groundbreaking institutional partnerships to innovative programs that bring together the contributions of multiple disciplines to address the world’s most pressing challenges. I am all too aware that nothing I have accomplished would have been at all possible without the dedicated efforts of the many faculty, staff, and students who shared my appreciation of what this university means to our nation and the world, and my anticipation of the world-class status it is sure to achieve as it enters its third century just a few years from now. 

The work of my final year as president is clearly defined. I will concentrate on supporting the deans as we rapidly approach the completion of our $1 billion “Making History” campaign. I will continue to focus on building our worldwide and lifelong community of GW alumni. And I will seek new ways to make good on the university’s promise to ensure that every student we enroll has the fullest possible opportunity to succeed so that he or she can go forth from this university fully prepared to change the world.

With thanks and best regards to all,

Steve Knapp

(Read about highlights of President Knapp's administration.)