Cermony marks name change

In commemoration of the University’s 100 years under its current name, officials dedicated a White Ash tree in a ceremony Wednesday to recognize GW’s namesake.

Formerly the Columbian College and then Columbian University, GW changed its name in 1904 to honor the first U.S. president. After George Washington’s death, Congress honored him and his aspiration to create a national institution of higher learning by creating the Columbian College in 1821.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, along with about 50 alumni, officials, student leaders, trustees and friends of GW, attended the 30-minute ceremony in Kogan Plaza.

Lisa Moore, member of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which owns and operates George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, presented the tree to the University in honor of Mount Vernon’s connection to GW. The tree is a clone containing DNA sampling from the original White Ash planted in 1785 at Mount Vernon.

“George Washington had an abiding interest in trees,” Moore said. “They were his great delight. The tree is a clone of the majestic White Ash?found around the mansion at Mount Vernon.”

Trachtenberg reminded attendees about Washington’s efforts to beautify his home.

“George Washington is famous for cutting down trees,” Trachtenberg said. “The story was actually concocted after his death. Washington was really a planter with a long view.”

Ainsley Caldwell, associate director of the Urban Forestry Administration for D.C., was also on hand to represent the mayor, Anthony Williams, who was out of town for the event.

Anyah Dembling, executive vice president of the Student Association, spoke on behalf of the student body, thanking the school and Trachtenberg for the transformations GW has made in the past century.

“Celebrations often coincide with time,” Dembling said. “What we are really celebrating is progress.”

At the end of the ceremony, Jim Rees, director of Historic Mount Vernon, led a ritual toast dating back to the days of George Washington. All those on hand shouted in unison, “huzzah,” an old-fashioned term to express joy, three times.

Trachtenberg concluded his remarks by looking to the future.

“For 100 years, The George Washington University has been growing and thriving,” Trachtenberg said. “Now we have a tree that will grow and thrive. I would call it fate. George Washington University and Mount Vernon together again.”

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