Older students trying to find “New Hall” on a map may be a little confused, now that the building has been officially dedicated in a ceremony as Philip S. Amsterdam Hall.
Students, alumni, University President Steven Knapp, former President Steven Joel Trachtenberg, and several members of the Board of Trustees gathered Saturday in the lobby of 2350 H St. to celebrate the generosity of the late Philip S. Amsterdam, a GW alumnus and the new namesake of the residence hall.
Amsterdam received his B.A. in anthropology in 1962 and an honorary law degree in 2007. He was a member of the Board of Trustees and made several significant donations to the University, including a $5 million donation to the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. The current anthropology building bears the name of his mother, Hortense Amsterdam.
The GW Office of Development took into consideration all of Amsterdam’s involvement in its decision to honor him, Director of Donor Relations Norma Bustos said.
“We wanted to recognize Phil as a close friend of the University,” Bustos said. “He gave so much to the University, not just financially.”
While the name change may seem a little confusing, it had been planned since the building’s construction in 1997. The building was initially named “New Hall” to emulate the “New College” at Oxford University, Trachtenberg said. Both were named with the intention of bestowing the buildings with the names of generous philanthropists.
Years later, “New Hall” is now known as Philip S. Amsterdam Hall, while “Oxford is stuck with the ‘New College,'” Trachtenberg said.
Briefly addressing the small crowd, Knapp celebrated Amsterdam’s generosity and expressed the University’s high hopes for the legacy of the dedication. “By honoring Phil in this way, we hope to inspire generations of GW students who pass through these doors to think about the service they will do,” he said.
After Knapp’s remarks, Trachtenberg took to the podium to sing praises of Amsterdam. “Phil gave me two gifts, the first and most important of which was his friendship, and the second was to the institution,” he said. “GW was good to Phil and Phil was good to GW.”
Trachtenberg went on to detail the full extent of Amsterdam’s generosity to the school and to his loved ones. The two presidents’ dedications gave way to a reception where community members convened to continue the celebration of Amsterdam’s contributions. A plaque providing a brief explanation of the life and involvement of Amsterdam now hangs outside Philip S. Amsterdam hall.
“Phil would’ve loved all this,” Amsterdam’s stepdaughter, Debbie Martinos, said. “The speeches, the plaque, it’s all great.”
“He liked being the center of attention,” added Roberta Almeas, another stepdaughter.
Dylan F. Pyne, a sophomore senator in the Student Association and chairman of Campaign GW, said he thought the ceremony was “really beautiful.”
“From the stories President Knapp and President Trachtenberg told, it seems like Philip Amsterdam was truly an inspiration to everyone he was able to touch,” Pyne said.