University Prepares for Commencement

This week’s festivities and ceremonies build excitement for the year’s biggest celebration.

Commencement Photo
The George Washington University gets ready to celebrate Commencement.
May 15, 2013

With an estimated 25,000 guests expected to attend the George Washington University’s Commencement ceremony on the National Mall this Sunday, planning this year’s event is no small feat. To prepare, staff members are hard at work holding final meetings, figuring out logistics and putting the finishing touches on a weeklong schedule of celebrations leading up to the big event.

In the days before Commencement, GW’s campus is abuzz with festivities to honor the accomplishments of graduating students. The Athletics Commencement,  held on Tuesday, recognized five student-athletes who will be unable to attend Sunday’s Commencement ceremony because of a conference championship. George Washington University President Steven Knapp and Board of Trustees members will join seniors for cake and a toast to the class of 2013 Thursday at noon. Seniors will also present a gift to the university—a check with funds they raised throughout the year—and take a final class picture. Later that day, the university will honor graduating doctoral students in a traditional hooding ceremony, and the Multicultural Student Services Center will host a celebration.

Friday begins with a commissioning ceremony for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. The university’s 10 schools and colleges’ individual celebrations also start Friday and go through Sunday. In these intimate ceremonies, each school will recognize their individual graduates.

Saturday’s itinerary includes the university’s Interfaith Baccalaureate Service. The ceremony will give students, families and friends of all faiths a chance to reflect before Commencement. The service, open to all members of the GW community, will be held at Western Presbyterian Church and will feature remarks from Dr. Knapp and graduating students, performances by the GW Music Department and meditations from clergy of several different religions.

Sunday’s Commencement program boasts a keynote from GW alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. ’98, who will be awarded an honorary degree, along with international education advocate Harriet Mayor Fulbright, M.F.A. ’75, and 23rd Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, M.P.A. ’86. Set to the backdrop of the Washington Monument, the ceremony is the first that will show off the university’s new look. The stage will be decorated with flags bearing GW’s updated logos and monograms. The university has partnered with the D.C. National Park Service on safety measures for all attendees.

“Commencement at GW is just one of the unique events our students experience at the university. From the school celebrations to the ceremony on the National Mall, this is a time for our community to cherish,” Vice President for External Relations Lorraine Voles said. “Having one of our own alumni, Kerry Washington, addressing the graduates, their families and friends makes this time even more special.”

Assistant Vice President of Events and Venues Michael Peller is one of many working hard with his teams to go over site plans and itineraries. He hopes this year’s Commencement is a memorable celebration that captures the pride of graduates.

“These events are a wonderful culmination of our students’ experiences. It’s a great way to further celebrate their achievements,” he said.