As the sun dipped behind the home of George and Martha Washington, a fife and drum corps circled the yard, proclaiming the start to an evening of beginnings.
Nearly 600 people – GW students, alumni, parents, friends, faculty, trustees, and university administrators – had gathered at the historic Mount Vernon Estate for the public launch of the largest fundraising campaign in the 193-year history of the George Washington University.
Assorted re-enactors playing the roles of historical figures, including George and Martha Washington, were part of the evening’s event. They mixed with guests as they toured the mansion and the grounds, adding to the sense of history that pervaded the dinner, reception, and remarks held on the east lawn of the estate overlooking the Potomac River.
Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association Barbara B. Lucas welcomed guests before GW President Steven Knapp took the stage to officially announce the campaign.
“I can think of no better place to launch our campaign than the home of our namesake, who … envisioned the creation of a university in the heart of our nation’s capital,” said President Knapp. “Tonight we are announcing an ambitious goal that, if we are successful, will fully prepare the university George Washington envisioned to advance into its third century.”
Making History: The Campaign for GW aims to raise $1 billion by June 30, 2018, to support students, enhance academics, and break new ground at the George Washington University. More than 30,000 donors have already contributed to the campaign during its quiet phase, which began in 2011 and has raised over $525 million to date.
The evening included a special coining ceremony and “Voices of Now,” reflections by members of the GW community on education, philanthropy, and service that complemented the historic words of President Washington recited by his re-enactor throughout the program. GW Board of Trustees Chairman Nelson Carbonell Jr, BS ’85, also read his open letter to George Washington detailing Washington’s dream of a university that would educate the citizen leaders of the newly formed nation.
“You didn’t complete your own formal education,” Chairman Carbonell said to Washington. “Financial problems after your father’s death in 1743 robbed you of that opportunity. Instead you embarked on a rich life of self-education and discovery. You became an engineer, an agronomist, a surveyor, a politician, a soldier, a scholar. Nonetheless, you valued what you had been denied. It was your great wish to give others the opportunity to study and to learn.”
The event, which was underwritten by anonymous gifts, concluded with fireworks over the Potomac River and a toast from President Knapp, who declared, “To The George Washington University and what we shall do together to make history.”
Click here to view photos from the event.