Graduating seniors traded their caps and gowns for cocktail dresses and suits, dancing alongside family, friends and administrators at the annual Monumental Celebration Saturday night.
The 17th annual Monumental Celebration took place in the Main Hall of the stately Union Station and featured live music, food, drinks, balloon artists and free caricature portraits. University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said that 1,200 students, family members and friends attended Saturday’s celebration, down from the 2,000 that attended the event last year.
Tickets to the event were $45 for graduates and $55 for friends and family members, up from $35 and $40 respectively last year.
Despite the increase in price, students interviewed were pleased by the location and satisfied with the event.
“It’s gorgeous. I walked in and didn’t even realize it was Union Station,” said Laura Jackson, a School of Public Health and Health Sciences graduate. “You get to bump into people you haven’t seen in three years and say goodbye.”
Like many of the graduates, Jackson attended the event with members of her family.
Her mother, Gail Jackson, remembered the event from a visit to GW during her daughter’s freshman year and has looked forward to it ever since.
“I told Laura that four years from now, we would have this experience,” Jackson said. “This venue is really special.”
University President Steven Knapp and his wife Diane mingled with students Saturday night and Knapp noted the familial tone of the event.
“It’s a very nice event because it’s spacious and a beautiful venue,” Knapp said. “A lot of people come with parents, it’s very nice.”
In addition to the usual music and dancing, this year’s Celebration marked the first to host a toast by graduating seniors selected by the Commencement Speaker Nomination Committee.
Alongside GW Alumni Association President Richard Crespin, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences graduating senior Megan Marinos gave her classmates encouraging words in a toast to the Class of 2009.
“While we may never see one another and we don’t know each other, we are graduates of GW,” Marinos said. “Remember one another, hold onto the common history and now let’s celebrate.”
Despite a broken leg, Kenny Brown, a graduate of the School of Business, danced the night away, laughing with friends and posing for pictures on the dance floor with crutches in hand.
“I’ve been drinking, dancing, and having a grand ole time,” Brown said. “I have a broken leg, but I don’t care. Tell upcoming graduates to look forward to Commencement.”