For nearly two decades, former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg welcomed students in the fall and bade farewell to seniors each spring.
Now, on May 16, the end of the Trachtenberg era will be marked at the University-wide Commencement on the National Mall.
The class of 2010 is the last group of students to have experienced Trachtenberg’s presidency, entering GW as freshmen during Trachtenberg’s final year.
Though Trachtenberg will not be at Commencement, he said that in a way, his absence is only fitting.
“There’s no role for me in this Commencement. [The class of 2010] is as much Steve Knapp’s as they are mine at this point. While it’s true that I greeted them, I think it’s appropriate for him to say farewell,” Trachtenberg said.
During the ceremony, Trachtenberg will be in California delivering a graduation address to the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy.
“There comes a point when you have to give up and do something else,” he said. “Otherwise it’s not good for you.”
Senior Clayton Fordahl said he has seen a difference at the University since Trachtenberg stepped down and current University President Steven Knapp took over.
“I can’t say that I’ve noticed a marked difference between the policies of Knapp and Trachtenberg,” Fordahl said. “That said, there is a definite distinction in leadership styles. When I first arrived at GW, the glow of ego was quite nearly blinding. It seems to have dimmed since Knapp’s leadership began.”
While most seniors only had Trachtenberg as president their freshman year, senior Emily Alexander said her peers know the third longest-serving president in GW history.
“I think they have memories of him for sure, freshman year was really formative,” she said.
Rebecca Wood, a 2008 graduate and now a graduate student at GW, recalls the farewell parties for Trachtenberg in different residence halls and said she remembers Trachtenberg’s influence in making the hippo GW’s unofficial mascot.
“When President Knapp came he was very present. I saw him more than I saw Trachtenberg, but I heard [Trachtenberg’s] name a lot,” Wood said.
Trachtenberg made it clear he does not expect his name to live on forever, though.
“You’re egotistical enough to think that someone is going to remember who you are,” Trachtenberg said, reiterating university presidents only add to a complex line of achievement and leadership.
But to the class of 2010, Trachtenberg said he hopes they remember him fondly, saying, “I wish these guys well and I hope they stay in touch.”