Monumental Celebration draws modest crowd

Despite drawing fewer students and family members for the second year in a row, Union Station attracted a crowd of graduates and friends Saturday night to enjoy live music, food, drinks, and of course, dancing.

The Monumental Celebration, a gala held for graduates and their families, drew only 900 students, family members and administrators, Executive Associate of University Events Cattleya Wongkongkatap said Saturday evening. The number represents a decline since 2008, when 2,000 people attended and in 2009, when 1,200 attended. The class of 2010 had 2,400 students, but Monumental Celebration was open to administrators, families and students. Despite the reduced numbers, Wongkongkatap said she was pleased with the attendance.

“We did have a surprisingly good turnout,” Wongkongkatap said. “I think everyone had a great time.”

Significantly less space was reserved inside Union Station for the event, which was held in the Main and East halls . The absence of a stage in the Main Hall made the reduction in space a noticeable change from last year’s Celebration. Wongkongkatap referred comments on the downsize to the Office of External Affairs, which did not return request for comment.

Throughout the evening, students danced alongside friends and family in the East Hall to live music from The Great Expectations, a band that played family-friendly tunes ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

“This is really a family celebration,” Elliott School of International Affairs graduating senior Valentina Pereda said while taking a break from dancing. “We never party with our family, so it’s great to dance with all of them.”

Tickets to the event cost $45 for graduates and $55 for other attendees, including one coupon for a complimentary drink at a number of cash bars – which offered alcoholic beverages at an additional charge – leaving at least one student to question the cost of tickets.

“I can’t believe the University gave us a free drink,” joked School of Engineering and Applied Science graduating senior Robert Dettore. “The event overall is a great idea, but they should have offered more than one free drink.”

Despite the cost of tickets, the Celebration was a final opportunity for many students to say goodbye to friends and faculty as they end their time at GW.

“It’s just been great to catch up with people you don’t want to forget,” Columbian College of Arts and Sciences graduating senior Jennifer Perry said. “I’m really impressed with the event, I think GW did a great job.”

And it’s not just students saying goodbye – for Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman, the Celebration was his last as he moves into retirement at the end of the year.

“We will miss GW.It feels nostalgic,” Lehman said, alongside his wife. “It’s so exciting to see these graduates moving on, whether it be to the Peace Corps or to jobs or other endeavors.”

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