Despite high turnout from alumni and dignitaries, University officials and alumni said they are disappointed more students did not attend the inauguration celebration for University President Steven Knapp.
The weeklong event, which ended Nov. 17, was intended to commemorate GW’s 16th president and his vision for the University. It included separate days devoted to community development, University research, and the ongoing relationship between students, faculty and alumni.
While there was heavy participation from alumni and friends of the University throughout the week, there was a lack of student involvement at the inaugural ceremony, said Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz.
“If there was one thing I think we could have improved on it’s student participation,” Katz said, adding that students should know Knapp’s plans for the future.
Vice President for Communication Mike Freedman said about 400 students attended the week’s events, out of a total attendance of about 5,000.
“We tried our best to infuse a sense of enthusiasm about how historic this would be and how it would be one of the first times for (students) to hear Knapp’s vision for GW,” Freedman said.
He added, “I think the students who decided not to come missed something very special for this institution and our history.”
Laura Downs, a GW alumna who now works with the GW Alumni Association, was impressed with the University’s effort throughout the week, but also noticed a lack of student involvement.
“I thought the inaugural ceremony could have benefited from more student participation,” she said.
More than 2,000 people gathered at Smith Center for the inaugural ceremony Friday. Most of the attendees were alumni and dignitaries.
Matt Lindsay, the director of alumni communications, said there was positive alumni turnout throughout the week. About 600 alumni attended an event devoted to past graduates. Lindsay said he is happy Knapp has made alumni a goal of his administration.
“President Knapp has put a significant focus in building bonds with the University and alumni,” Lindsay said. “I think the fact that the president has put a focus on this is a significant help.”
Jeremy Gosbee, vice president for communications of the GW Alumni Association, said he was delighted to see many alumni come out to the inauguration. He was also encouraged by Knapp’s efforts regarding the alumni network.
“As a leader in the GW Alumni Association, I was particularly pleased to see that President Knapp focused so much attention and energy on the accomplishments of our alumni,” he said.
Laurel Price-Jones, vice president for Advancement, said involving alumni in University activities may eventually lead to increased donations to the school.
“We have a strong alumni network. However, our alumni giving is just okay,” she said. “Last year we raised $5 million. In comparison (New York University) raised $23 million.”
She also said that the events on Lifelong and Worldwide Community day, part of Knapp’s effort to increase alumni involvement, helped to spur this participation.
“Thursday’s events were very well attended, which is a positive thing. We had over 500 people attend the first President’s Ball,” she said.
The inaugural ceremony was also attended by delegates and academic dignitaries from many institutions around the country.
Charles Phlegar, vice president of alumni affairs and development at Cornell University, said he enjoyed the ceremony and has great faith in Knapp’s tenure at GW.
“For me the ceremony struck the right balance between celebrating Steve’s presidency and highlighting your great University,” Phlegar said.
Robert Lindgren, the president of Randolph-Macon College, who also attended the ceremony, said he also has confidence in Knapp’s vision.
“I see GW as having had – in this last generation – a tremendous period of growth and expansion of buildings and campus,” Lindgren said. “(GW) now sits at the threshold of being a really significant place.”