The setting bore a striking resemblance to past Monumental Celebrations. Like previous years, graduates clad in tuxedos and ball gowns sat around tables entertaining long-missed families. The band Odyssey again played tunes parents could move to, while a disc jockey mixed in Billboard top-40 songs modern enough to spark energetic dance circles.
Little sisters again danced on the shoes of their college-age brothers. And GW students at the doorstep of the working world again jumped and sang the words to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” at the end of the night. But for hundreds of graduates and their long invite-list of guests, it was something new – the culminating party after a week of graduation celebration.
If nothing else, Monumental Celebration was an impressive excuse to cut loose with parents after a week of partying with friends, graduates said at Union Station Saturday night. The entire front section of Union Station was free reign for graduates who mingled with professors at dessert buffets, laughed with siblings at caricature-painting tables and cut a rug for the last time with four-year friends.
Graduating seniors Christina Nabholz, Teresa Root and Mindy Miner said the event reminded them of GW’s Inaugural Ball in January, only with one fewer dance floor and a shift of focus from politics to the students. Sitting around a table outside the dance floor, the graduates took a break from celebrating with their parents and reminisced about their freshman experiences living in Lafayette Hall when it was still called Adams Hall.
Nabholz said the night presented an interesting social dilemma.
“It’s hard to have fun with your parents and hang out with your friends at the same time,” she said.
The graduates agreed the event was too crowded to see everyone they wanted to congratulate and an extra dance floor would have been helpful, but said the party was a perfect cap to Grad Week events.
At another table, graduate Emmanouil Sarigiannis, who had just finished a spur-of-the-moment road trip to North Carolina with a friend on a Harley Davidson, caught up with his dad, who flew in from Greece for the Commencement.
The families of graduates and future husband and wife Brad Hopewell and Grace Herrle gathered over hors d’oeuvres. Hopewell’s grandparents said two empty chairs at the table were the result of a pledge by Herrle’s parents to “dance their kids under the table.”
Event organizers said Monumental Celebration drew the largest crowd in its decade-long history, with 3,600 tickets sold. Phil Meisner, who will graduate in the fall, said space was more cramped than it was at the past two celebrations he attended. Meisner was part of two traditions that night, as a future graduate celebrating with his class and a former Student Association president mingling with an elite class.
The mix of graduates, family members and GW officials scattered the historic train station with a palette of colors and stories about the past four yeas Saturday night, but the theme was clear. As graduate Julie Patrick put said, “It’s the end of everything and the beginning of everything else.”
-Tim Donnelly and Kate Stepan contributed to this report.