Commencement to be held on the Mall

The May 21 Commencement ceremony will take place on the Mall, University officials announced late Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement ends a month and a half of uncertainty about where the University’s annual graduation ceremony would be held. In September, National Park Service confirmed to The Hatchet that the Ellipse, the site of every graduation ceremony but one since 1992, would be unavailable in May because of construction.

More than 20,000 graduates and their families and friends will sit on the Mall between 4th and 7th streets and listen to keynote speakers former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. Attendees will be situated between the Capitol building and Washington Monument.

“The combination of the National Mall as our primary site and former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush as our keynote speakers sets the stage for an extraordinary weekend for our graduates and their families,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said in a news statement.

Michael Freedman, GW’s vice president of Communications, said there was “near-unanimous student sentiment for maintaining a unique outdoor venue in Washington.”

University officials breathed a sigh of relief when they landed the Mall, but they will have to do some creative planning to ensure everyone in attendance can see and hear the ceremony.

Since the Mall is a much narrower space than the Ellipse, some attendees may be sitting blocks away from Trachtenberg and the Bushes. Officials are exploring the placement of large television screens and speakers along the event site. Side bleachers near the stage are also a possibility.

“A lot of the details are still to be worked out on this,” Freedman said in an interview Wednesday night.

Last month, Trachtenberg estimated at a Board of Trustees meeting that hosting Commencement on the Mall would cost an additional $150,000.

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