By Anna Miller
On the count of “one, two, three, pretend,” a hard hat-clad George Washington University President Steven Knapp led students, faculty and deans Friday in a symbolic sledgehammer swing against a wall inside the Warwick Memorial Building on 2300 K Street .
The celebration marked the first step in the demolition of the building, which will make way for GW’s School of Public Health and Health Services’ new building.
“A lot of people walk by and wonder what the Warwick building is,” said Dr. Knapp. “But they won’t have any question when they see the gleaming towers of the School of Public Health and Health Services.”
The ceremony brought together students, faculty, staff, school administrators, the SPHHS Dean’s Council, alumni and others who reflected on SPHHS’s tremendous growth in its 14-year history and looked forward to an even stronger future.
“We are here to celebrate our school’s distinctive position at this time in history and at this location on the map,” said SPHHS Dean Lynn Goldman. “We are here to honor the cultivation of this ground to build a firm foundation for our school and for public health.”
Both Dr. Goldman and Dr. Knapp thanked the many people who helped to make the moment a reality, including undergraduate and graduate students who have been well-represented at community meetings and D.C. Zoning Commission hearings.
“Because of the passionate advocacy of students, they persuaded the Zoning Commission that this is a good idea,” said Dr. Knapp.
Rosslyn Brock, M.H.S.A. ’89, chair of the national board of directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and member of the GW SPHHS Dean’s Council, also spoke during the event.
“I am proud to be an SPHHS alumna, but I’m even more proud to be here today,” she said. “This is a historic moment in the life of the George Washington University. We are both heirs and pioneers of the legacy of those who have come before us.”
The demolition will begin this spring and the new SPHHS building is slated to open its doors in time for spring 2014 class. The building, which Dr. Goldman said is “a dream come true” for students and faculty, will have approximately 115,000 square feet of academic, administrative and meeting space.
For the first time in the school’s history, its more than 200 full- and part-time faculty, 1,200 graduate and undergraduate students and staff — who are currently spread across eight locations — will be able to convene under one roof.
“Our new home will serve as the convening center for research, scholarly activities and so much more,” said Dr. Goldman.
“There is no better place and no better time to study public health and health services than right now at GW,” she said. “And soon, we will have a new home right here on Washington Circle to welcome our students and faculty and key leaders in the field of public health and health administration.”