Charles Herbert Stockton brought some of the most significant changes to GW during his term as president from 1910 to 1918. Born in Philadelphia, Stockton graduated from the United States Naval
Academy in 1865 and saw active service in the Civil War. Eventually promoted to Rear Admiral, Stockton was recognized as an authority on international law.
A former dean of the law school, Stockton served as acting president before his official appointment in 1910. He promptly created a formal, professional atmosphere, stressing punctuality and efficiency among faculty and students. When faced with the difficult task of helping the University through a period of financial problems during World War I, Stockton adopted a conservative economic approach, placing salary caps on almost all faculty positions. Stockton’s plan proved effective when the University’s debt decreased dramatically.
In an effort to centralize the University, Stockton moved the Department of Arts and Sciences to 2023 G St., establishing GW’s Foggy Bottom campus. Stockton’s expansion and stabilization of GW helped the University achieve a rapid increase in student enrollment. President Stockton also authorized the acceptance of women to GW professional schools in 1911.
Present-day GW owes much of its status as a prestigious university to President William Miller Collier, who served a brief but influential term from 1918 to 1921. As former U.S. Minister to Spain, Collier was instrumental in establishing GW as a politically aware campus because of his career as a diplomat. In an effort to expand social and political interaction on campus, Collier organized public lecture series and dinners for to introduce political and literary figures to the GW community.
Collier’s contributions were not limited to the political end of the University. Known for his active participation in student activities, Collier helped form a special unit of the Student Army Training Corps and a United States Naval Unit in response to the heightened military awareness caused by World War I. Collier also encouraged the expansion of the University by purchasing more real estate on G Street, continuing in the footsteps of his predecessor, President Stockton.
As GW celebrated its centennial, The Hatchet declared the 1920-21 school year “the most prosperous and successful year that GW has had.” Collier’s short-lived presidency ended when he resigned after being nominated as the U.S. ambassador to Chile by President Warren G. Harding.
In his 1923 inaugural address, William Mather Lewis said, “The ideal which we seek is a University with national character and influence.” During his presidency, which lasted until 1927, Lewis sought to accomplish this goal by greatly changing the face of GW.
Prior to his inauguration, Lewis gained extensive political and educational experience. In the government, Lewis served as chief of educational service for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and director of the savings division of the Treasury Department.
Lewis maintained the conservative economic attitude toward expansion held by his predecessors. Nonetheless, he oversaw the construction of a new gymnasium, The “Tin Tabernacle,” and the acquisition of athletic grounds to meet the rising demand for a physical education program. Stockton Hall was dedicated as the new law school building, named for the former University president, during Lewis’ term.
To mark the 100th anniversary of Columbian College’s first Commencement ceremony, Lewis invited M. J. J. Jusserand, the ambassador of France, to deliver the address. In addition, Mrs. Joshua Evans Jr. became the first woman to sit on the Board of Trustees. Lewis also saw the adoption of the Colonials as the official mascot of GW athletics, marking the end of University symbols the Hatchetites and Crum-men.