By Kristen Mitchell
George Washington University alumna and history-making Olympic athlete Elana Meyers Taylor, B.S. ’06, M.T.A. ’11, HON ’18, will deliver the keynote address at the university’s Commencement ceremony on May 15. At her fourth Olympic competition in Beijing earlier this year, the 37-year-old became the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history and the oldest woman to medal for the United States at the Winter Olympics in any sport.
Meyers Taylor showed courage in the face of adversity at the Olympic Games. She tested positive for COVID-19 soon after her arrival in Beijing and had to isolate in the days leading up to her Olympic monobob debut, where she ultimately secured the silver medal. She also earned a bronze medal in two-woman bobsled, bringing her lifetime medal count to five—becoming Team USA’s most decorated Olympic bobsledder in history.
Meyers Taylor’s resilience and leadership is an inspiration to the GW community.
“As a Monumental Alumna and honorary degree recipient, an individual committed to serving her communities, a member of the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame, and the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history, Elana Meyers Taylor will serve as an inspiration to our graduates, motivating them to become leaders at this critical time in history,” said GW President Mark S. Wrighton.
Meyers Taylor will also be awarded the GW President’s Medal, the highest honor the university’s president can bestow, in recognition of her courage, character and leadership.
“I am so grateful to George Washington University for the start I had not just in my education, but also in competitive sports and the life lessons that have come from that,” Meyers Taylor said. “I am honored to receive the GW President’s Medal and to return and speak with students about all the limitless opportunity that lies ahead of them.”
Meyers Taylor graduated from the GW School of Business in 2011 with a master’s degree in sports management after completing a B.S. in exercise science in 2006 at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. She was the GW softball program’s first recruit and graduated as the team’s all-time leader in nearly every offensive category. The Georgia native was twice an Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete of the Year and Capital One/Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American during her impressive career at GW.
Meyers Taylor was inducted into the GW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014. Her No. 24 was retired by the program later that year.
Meyers Taylor was awarded an honorary degree during commencement on the National Mall in 2018. In her remarks, she described the devastation she experienced after not making the United States Olympic softball team in 2008, and how it felt like the end of her Olympic ambitions at the time.
With encouragement from her parents, she decided to pursue bobsled and soon found herself en route to Lake Placid, New York, where she found that her Olympic dream was not over. Through the sport she has traveled the world, met her husband, represented the United States and won Olympic medals. She encouraged GW’s graduating class to find perspective when things don’t go as planned.
“Keep in mind, sometimes, that a very bad day can be the best thing that ever happened to you,” she said.
Meyers Taylor joins the ranks of previous GW Commencement speakers, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, chef and humanitarian José Andrés, NBC News journalist Savannah Guthrie, and actress, director and producer Kerry Washington. These speakers have added to a long line of GW Commencement guests stretching back to our first ceremony in 1824, which honored the Marquis de Lafayette and Henry Clay.
Visit GW’s Commencement website for additional information about the week’s schedule and events.