The announcement of the largest single donation in GW’s history came last week, marking a much-needed improvement not only for athletics but also for the University as a whole. We have hopes that this donation will launch a revitalized image of GW for current and potential students while attracting new donors and elements to campus life.
The Charles E. Smith Family, Robert H. Smith Family and Robert and Arlene Kogod donated $10 million, with the University charged to raise an additional $15 million. In total, the gift will renovate Smith Center, the home of GW’s athletic teams and a vital element of campus. While fulfilling a central need in Foggy Bottom, the center is in desperate need of renovation.
This hopefully marks the beginning of larger and more high-profile donations that are vital to the success of a competitive university in today’s market. It is crucial that these monies be invested effectively in order to invite more benefactors in the coming years.
On the most basic level, the athletic department, notably the basketball programs, will benefit from this transformation. GW must battle with other top-tier schools to attract the best student-athletes. Better facilities will make GW more appealing to not only these athletes, but sports media and the community at large.
The revitalization project also has the potential to transform the space into a more usable feature on campus. GW cannot compete in drawing big-name performances such as George Mason’s 10,000 seat Patriot Center that hosts music superstars and athletic events alike. The renovations will help bring GW up to par in the D.C. entertainment world, even with space constraints that will not be resolved through this plan.
The renovations will also offer the University another lucrative commercial venue on campus. While we urge Smith Center to be reserved first and foremost for student use, there will inevitably be occasions where outside interests can rent out this valuable space like the University currently does with both Marvin Center and Lisner Auditorium.
When focusing on student space, the University should find multiple and varied uses for Smith Center. In light of the recent student theater debacle and a constant lack of practice space for student art groups, a rejuvenated Smith Center should be integrated as a part of student life, not just athletic life.
If Smith Center is to be the heart of the south part of campus, all students must feel they have a stake in it. Currently many students enter the doors of the center only a handful of times, most notably for Freshman Convocation and Commencement ceremonies. With the expansive renovation of Smith Center, it is hoped that this shot of new energy will reverberate through student and campus life as a whole.