Past and present D.C. mayors came together for what University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg called a “historic” moment Saturday. The first-ever GW Foggy Bottom ball at the Swissotel ballroom showed GW in its element.
“Some people call GW a party school,” Trachtenberg said. “That may be true, but we party in black tie.”
The event, which celebrated GW’s 90 years in Foggy Bottom drew 800 students and community members to mingle over elegant buffets and ice sculptures.
King James and the Serfs of Swing and a handful of student signing groups entertained at the ball.
The highlight of the evening was a ceremony introducing four D.C. mayors. Walter Washington, Marion Barry, Shannon Pratt and current mayor Anthony Williams came together for what Trachtenberg said was the first time all four D.C. mayors were in the same room for a joyous occasion.
Williams addressed the crowd, announcing that Feb. 23 will now be known as “GW day” – a District-wide day of acknowledgement of the University’s history in the area.
Williams said GW is a good neighbor and is “very important” to the community.
He said Trachtenberg accompanied him on a trip to help lobby for D.C. as a site for the 2012 Winter Olympics.
Washington, an honorary degree holder from GW, said it was a great day for the University and for the city. He also mentioned he owns a GW rocking chair.
Barry also called GW a “good neighbor”.
“I don’t know about a rocking chair, but I’d sure like a degree,” Barry said.
Trachtenberg said the event gave the chance for the “real people” of Foggy Bottom to come out and have a good time – even those who may be critical of the University, he said.
Foggy Bottom residents in attendance were positive about the University and said that many of the known critics did not attend the ball.
Anne Charles, a Foggy Bottom resident for almost 30 years, said the ball would not cure GW-community relations but would not hurt.
“It would have been nice to see more Foggy Bottom residents here,” she said. “But I don’t know how many of them are party animals.”
Foggy Bottom resident Anthony Rizzuto, a GW alumnus, said the GW-community relationship is overwhelmingly good even though some residents are very critical.
“Sometimes the minority that dislikes GW is so loud, students don’t realize that most of the residents enjoy the benefits of the University,” he said.
Long-time resident Vince Cremona agreed.
“There is small group that hates (GW) and will always hate your guts,” he said. “But I like what (GW) is doing here”
Vice President for Communication Mike Freedman estimated that about 100 community members attended the event.
Freedman said the school hopes to have a similar ball every year.
“This is not like the Inaugural Ball where the country was celebrating something and GW joined in. This is our celebration,” Freedman said. About 3,100 people attended the Innaugural Ball January 2001.
Jeff Marootian, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and GW graduate student, said the event was a “great opportunity” for the community to have fun with GW students.
Marootian said there were no other members of the ANC present.
Student Association President Roger Kapoor said he was very happy with the turnout and thought it was a great opportunity for students to interact with politicians.
“I don’t know if the University has political intentions, but it’s awesome,” he said.
Most students said they were happy to see a formal event at GW.
“I feel like I’m at prom,” junior Rafid Fadul said.
“How many times do you get dressed up and look suave?” freshman Evan Pinsonnault said.
Freshman Jeff Schwimmer said it was “enjoyable” but that the pageantry was overdone.
Sophomore Ted Blumenthal, a singer in Emocappella, a group that performed at the ball, said he was excited to see the four mayors together.
“I was impressed with all the Foggy Bottom bourgeoisie, ” he said. “When I came to the event, I didn’t think it would be this classy.”