University Will Honor Tradition with Inauguration Celebration

The event will formally install GW’s 17th President Thomas J. LeBlanc.

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October 30, 2017

On Nov. 13, the George Washington University will officially inaugurate Thomas J. LeBlanc as its 17th president. A ceremony featuring some of the university’s longstanding traditions will take place at the Charles E. Smith Center, and an open-house reception will follow at the Science and Engineering Hall (SEH).

The ceremony will bring together trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni, as well as members from other colleges and universities, who will march in an academic procession according to their school’s founding date. The reception will include several pieces of the university’s history, including the original page of President George Washington’s will that designated shares of his stock in the Potomac Company toward the university’s establishment and endowment.

Members of the Events and Venues team have been planning the celebration in the Division of External Relations. The inauguration comes just four years before GW observes its bicentennial anniversary, offering the community a special opportunity to look back at how the university has evolved.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to convene the community to welcome a new president," Board of Trustees Chair Nelson A. Carbonell Jr., B.A. '85, said. "The inauguration celebrates GW's history and looks forward to a bright future."

The ceremony will include a welcome from Carbonell, as well as greeting remarks from Student Association President Peak Sen Chua; Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Sylvia Marotta-Walters; Alumni Association President Venessa Perry, M.P.H. ’99; and Executive Director of GW Libraries Barbra Giorgini.

As incoming president, Dr. LeBlanc will wear both the traditional Presidential Gown and the GW President’s Medallion, which serves as a symbol of office and features the university seal. 

At the reception in SEH, the university will also have on display the original inaugural Bible that George Washington put his hand and swore upon when taking the oath of office as the first president of the United States on April 30, 1789. The Bible belongs to the Ancient York Masons St. John's Lodge No. 1, who have agreed to let GW borrow the historic piece for the inaugural celebration.

“The work that has gone into planning the 17th president's Inauguration honors the traditions and legacy of the university,” Associate Vice President of Events & Venues Michael Peller said. “We have dedicated our time to ensuring this event  represents our rich history and campus community."

The university’s presidents have crafted inauguration events around their vision for the university. Dr. LeBlanc, who is dedicated to enhancing the undergraduate experience, will host a student brunch on Nov. 12 at West Hall and Pelham Commons on the Mount Vernon Campus to continue meeting face-to-face with members of the student body and hearing their perspectives.

From the regalia that will be worn at the ceremony to the Bible that will be on display at the reception, GW’s special assistant for broadcast operations and events Richard Golden explains that the inauguration is designed to remind the community of the history they come from since the university was established in 1821.

“Each president has made an indelible contribution to the university,” Mr. Golden said. “The inauguration also means passing the baton to an individual who has inherited 197 years of history. When you studied the people who have inhabited that office, there are many profiles in courage. This is yet another chapter.”