Chartered by Congress in 1821 as the Columbian College.
First freshman class: 11 students taught by Ira Chase, a theology professor.
First Commencement ceremony is held in December 1824 in a Presbyterian church where the Willard Hotel now stands. President John Quincy Adams and the Marquis de Lafayette preside over the ceremonies.
The medical department opens in March 1825 in a building at 10th and E streets N.W. The first female medical student is admitted in 1884.
Classes are suspended from May 1827 to May 1828 because of financial difficulties.
In 1888, Mabel Nelson Thurston, Thurston Hall’s namesake, is the first female undergraduate admitted to Columbian College. Since 1986, female undergraduates have consistently outnumbered males.
In 1888, the first Ph.D. degrees are awarded.
The college opens one of the nation’s first schools of graduate studies in 1893. Doctorates are offered in science, mathematics and liberal arts.
In 1918, classes are suspended for four weeks because of a flu epidemic.
During the 1930s, 15 fraternities and 12 sororities dominate the GW social scene.
At a conference in the Hall of Government in 1939, Niels Bohr announces the fission of uranium.
Hatchet editor Don Balfour is the first veteran to sign up for the G.I. Bill of Rights in 1944.
Ingrid Bergman stars in “Joan of Lorraine” at Lisner Auditorium in 1949.
GW officially desegregates in 1954. However, it takes another decade for the University to aggressively reach out to black communities.
In 1961, the first GW student IDs are issued.
GW closes down for a week in the spring of 1970 when riots, strikes and protests break out during the Vietnam War.
Gelman Library and Ross Hall open in 1973.
The Smith Center opens in 1975. That year, a Hatchet article reports the drug of choice on campus is cocaine, at $60 to $90 per gram. Marijuana costs about $15 an ounce.
In 1981, GW’s Medical Center treats President Reagan after he is shot.
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg becomes the 15th president of the University in 1988.
In 1990, the Smith Center serves as the international press center for the Bush-Gorbachev summit.
In 1993, the Marvin Center is the Clinton-Gore Inaugural Press Center. It hosts 800 visiting journalists and 14 press briefings in 12 days.
Also in 1993, the men’s basketball team makes it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
President Clinton and daughter Chelsea visit the Smith Center for a GW-Massachussets basketball game in 1995. GW upsets number one-ranked UMass, 78-75.
New Hall opens in 1997 as the model of residence halls for the 21st century.
Source: From Strength to Strength: A Pictorial History of The George Washington University, 1821-1996.
This article appeared in the August 17, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.
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