In Photos: GW Celebrates President LeBlanc's Inauguration

In a party at the Science and Engineering Hall, dinner at the Library of Congress, brunch on the Mount Vernon Campus and more, students, faculty, staff and guests came together to commemorate the university's 17th president.

George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc joins student athletes for brunch at the Mount Vernon Campus. (William Atkins/GW Today)
November 15, 2017

(Photos by William Atkins and Logan Werlinger.)

Celebration at SEH

All eight floors of GW’s Science and Engineering Hall were packed after Monday's inaugural ceremonies as students, faculty, staff and visitors celebrated Dr. LeBlanc’s installation as university president. Celebrants enjoyed snacks, student performances and exhibitions of historical material that included a Bible owned by George Washington and a page from his will.

GW’s faculty ensemble, the GW Jazz All-Stars, provided music for much of the afternoon. So did student groups including the Troubadors and GW Bhangra.

On the first floor, observers gathered around the Bible on which Mr. Washington took his oath of office and Mr. Washington’s will, usually on display at the Fairfax County Courthouse. County employee Heather Bellinger told the story of the document, which an employee stole during the Civil War by sewing it into his wife’s petticoats.

More historical documents from GW’s Special Collections Research Center were on display upstairs, including a senior thesis written entirely in Latin by one of GW’s first female graduates.

On higher floors, university employees and students mingled around buffet snacks, smiled in photo booths and high-fived with university mascot George.

The event was a celebration as much of GW as of its new president, and several laboratories and academic departments had work on display.

Stacey Hamilton, a graduate student working on her master’s degree in costume design, was at SEH to show visitors costumes by the Department of Theatre and Dance. But she also helped behind the scenes with Dr. LeBlanc’s regalia at the morning’s inaugural ceremony, and provided a glimpse into the work that goes into garbing a university official.

“I did a little work on the medallion, the chain of office, to make sure it would lay right on his robe, and then I was asked to be there this morning as a backup to make sure everything was laying right,” she said. “The chain was sitting too far forward—it’s supposed to sit a little further back on his shoulders. So I did what’s called a swing tack, a little thread on the back of the chain to hook onto the button on his robes and hold it in place.”

—Ruth Steinhardt

The Inaugural Brunch at MVC

A trio of former denizens of the Vern, now seniors, are happy Dr. LeBlanc chose the Mount Vernon Campus for the President’s Inaugural Brunch. This was a good sign, they agreed.

“I’ve heard he wants to increase school spirit, which I actually do agree with,” said Kate O’Brien.

“Yeah,” said Ananya Knute, “he’s trying to expand school spirit beyond sports.”  

On a glorious Sunday before noon, the two women and their friend Sartu Abdukadir were among the first to arrive at the balloon-festooned tent outside of West Hall.

The sounds of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” piped in by a DJ filled the air as students lined up at tables loaded with bite-sized chicken and waffles, mac and cheese balls, tater tots and veggie chili, sour cream and green onions, cookies and platters of fruit.  One student, reaching for a cake pop was heard to say, “Best food ever.”

Dr. LeBlanc and his wife, Anne, arrived to cheers and dancing from GW’s First Ladies. Joining a group photograph, the president couldn’t seem to resist moving to the music in what one student hailed as “free styling.”

The inaugural celebration represents the official awarding of the symbols of the office, Dr. LeBlanc said. “So, it is a big deal. We’ve only done it 17 times in GW’s 196-year history,” he said.

The sentiment was echoed by Student Association President Peak Sen Chua  who said, “This happens every decade or so. You can’t miss an event this extravagant.”

Students filled the tent and mingled with GW Board of Trustees members and Mount Vernon graduates Cynthia Steele Vance, B.A. ’79, and Judith Rogers, MVC ’74, as well as Provost Forrest Maltzman.  

A contingent of very tall men entered the tent, and Mrs. LeBlanc rightly pointed out, “It must be the basketball team. They’re all dressed the same.”

Energy levels were raised higher and students kept coming.

—B.L. Wilson


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