Donation to create Churchill archives

The University announced Thursday it received an $8 million donation – the largest gift so far this fiscal year – toward the creation of the first permanent home for the archives of a former British prime minister.

The Chicago-based Churchill Centre will fund the first-ever library in the U.S. dedicated to preserving the legacy of Winston Churchill, whose firm leadership carried Great Britain through World War II. Over the next three years, the contribution will cover the establishment of academic posts and the installation of rare books and other research materials in a new center on the first floor of Gelman Library.

“This makes the University more of a destination for scholars, students and the general public,” University President Steven Knapp said, adding that the archives would “build on the strategic advantage” and the reputation of GW.

Knapp emphasized that students would have the unique opportunity to study the key historical figure through research materials and related events supported by the gift.

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg first launched talks with the center to bring the collection to GW.

The donation includes a $2.5 million endowed professorship in Churchill studies and 20th-century British history in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a $2.5 million endowed curatorship of the National Churchill Library and Center. The professorship could be awarded to an existing faculty member or new hire based on expertise, Knapp said.

Academic programs in the Elliott School of International Affairs, the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and the GW Law School will coordinate teachings that highlight Churchill’s impact on history.

The British statesman shaped the Allied strategy in the 1940s alongside former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and the Soviet Union’s leader Joseph Stalin. During the Cold War, he coined the term “Iron Curtain” as a descriptor for the Soviet Union’s clasp on Eastern Europe.

Churchill earned a knighthood in 1953 and received honorary American citizenship a decade later.

The center will also provide financial backing for $2 million worth of renovations to the ground floor of Gelman to create a space for the library and exhibition and an additional $1 million for programming support. The Churchill library’s construction will coincide with the planned revamp of Gelman’s second floor.

“The National Churchill Library and Center at GW will have a profound impact on the research and scholarship of one of the most influential leaders in modern history, and GW is honored to include it among our growing list of world-class collections at the Gelman Library,” Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger said.

The gift brings fundraising for this fiscal year to $56 million – well ahead of this time last year.

Churchill Centre Chairman Laurence Geller called the project “a milestone” in the development of the center and of the Churchill scholarship in America.

“The unique place that Winston Churchill holds in modern history as an icon of leadership, and the respect his memory is accorded throughout the United States have long demanded the creation of a permanent home for Churchill studies, exhibitions and programs in our nation’s capital,” Geller, who was recently named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 2012 honors list, said.

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