In a ceremony full of pomp and prestige, Steven Knapp was inaugurated as GW’s 16th University president Friday.
“My job from this day forward will be to do everything in my power, working with all of you, to make (The George Washington University) synonymous with the highest degree of excellence,” Knapp said.
Approximately 2,500 attendees – 100 of whom were students – gathered at Smith Center to see Knapp’s official induction as University president. Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson, said about 800 people tuned in to watch the ceremony through a Web cast.
In his speech, Knapp emphasized research as an important focus for GW.
“The impact of our research has never been quite as visible as it deserves to be and as it must become so,” Knapp said. He continued to praise the research already done at GW in various fields, including science, medicine, law and public policy.
Knapp also discussed the University’s mission as, “a mission of learning, discovery and service to the nation’s capital, the nation itself and the global community to which we all belong.”
“(Knapp) has the vision and the ability to lead us onward and upward,” said junior Nicole Capp, Student Association president.
While looking toward GW’s future, Knapp also spoke about the University’s vibrant past. For the celebration, the University obtained the original Bible that George Washington used at his presidential inauguration.
Several speakers, representing different facets of the community including the student body, alumni, faculty and staff and the District of Columbia, welcomed Knapp.
“I am hoping that we can deepen and strengthen the partnership that we have between the city and the university,” said Mary Cheh, a member of D.C.’s City Council and a GW Law professor.
W. Russell Ramsey, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said students will benefit the most from the new administration. Ramsey also presented Knapp with the medal that officially symbolized his inauguration as the University president.
Former GW presidents Lloyd Elliott and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg also attended the ceremony. Trachtenberg stood out from the crowd with a Colonials baseball cap instead of the traditional mortarboard.
While the ceremony applauded Knapp’s accomplishments and talents, William R. Brody, president of Johns Hopkins University, was bittersweet about the transition.
Brody said he would shed both tears of sadness and happiness. While he is losing a trusted colleague at Hopkins, he said, GW is gaining “one of the most gifted academic leaders.”
Additionally, Brody praised Knapp not only for his intelligence but for his wit. The president told a story about an interview with Knapp on a D.C. radio show. The host asked Knapp how he felt about going from a school that excels in Division I lacrosse to a school that is known for Division I basketball. Knapp responded, “It will be easier to see the ball.”
This article appeared in the November 19, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.