The 161st birthday of Mount Vernon College founder Elizabeth Somers was cause for celebration Thursday, as students, faculty and staff observed Founder’s Day at GW’s newest campus.
“This is one of the most important traditions we have on this campus,” said Mount Vernon campus Executive Dean Grae Baxter. “We are here to celebrate the legacy of Elizabeth Somers. She anticipated change, and she welcomed it.”
Somers began advocating women’s education in 1868, teaching students in her F Street home. Eight years later, Mount Vernon Seminary was officially opened for business. The current campus on Foxhall Road opened in 1946.
“Mrs. Somers’ dedication to education for women – that is her legacy,” Baxter told a Post Hall room packed with Mount Vernon students, staff and alumnae from the classes of 1973 and 1948.
“When you hear alumnae speak about their memories – that is the living legacy,” she said. “They talk about the fun, the friendship, the lifelong love of learning that they gained from their time at Mount Vernon.”
The event served as the ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the Elizabeth J. Somers Center at the Mount Vernon campus, which will sponsor scholarships, mentoring programs and research opportunities.
“The center will run programs that honor women who stand out in their fields,” said Nina Mikhalevsky, a philosophy professor and the first Elizabeth Somers scholar.
Mikhalevsky also said the center will work with GW’s Gelman Library to preserve the history of women’s education at Mount Vernon Seminary and College.