Staff Editorial: Make our namesake’s birthday a tradition

Clarification appended

GW is an urban school largely devoid of tradition – with the exception that students rub the nose of our unofficial mascot, a hippo.

And when GW celebrated its namesake’s 281st birthday this weekend, most students were completely uninvolved in any type of celebration, which is a shame.

The University honored its namesake with the annual bonfire and s’mores roasting Friday in University Yard and invited Professor Emeritus Gordon Wood, an early American scholar, to give a lecture on George Washington’s legacy.

These events are all thoughtful gestures to remember and honor the University’s namesake. But Washington’s birthday offers an even greater opportunity to foster a sense of community and develop a lasting tradition on campus.

Other schools, for example, have larger celebrations. This University shares its namesake with Washington College in Maryland, which hosts an annual Birthday Ball to celebrate Washington’s birthday. This is something GW could seek to emulate.

At GW, there could be a number of events for students and alumni. Perhaps the University could offer a tailgate and block party before a basketball game, or host a comedian or performer to attract the entire community and make celebrating Washington’s birthday more of a mainstay tradition.

For the first time in its history last year, the University boasted over 250,000 living alumni. Administrators see this growing number of former students as a way to increase donations and bolster the University’s endowment. GW could use Washington’s birthday weekend as another opportunity to reconnect with graduates.

To encourage alumni to remain connected after graduation, the University hosts an annual alumni weekend. In the same vein, Washington’s birthday could serve as another opportunity to draw former students and their families from all over the country back to campus, transforming the weekend into a larger and more significant event. Though the University already hosts celebrations across the country to honor its namesake, a special weekend on campus could also help to bridge generations of students and alumni.

For students bogged down by midterms, Washington’s birthday celebration would be a refreshing way to cultivate a stronger sense of on-campus unity.

And at a time when hundreds of prospective and newly accepted students are visiting GW, it would be an opportunity to integrate future Colonials through a cornerstone tradition.

Going forward, GW should look to make Washington’s birthday an event that is truly memorable.

This editorial was updated Feb. 25, 2013 to reflect the following:
This editorial has been updated to reflect that the University already hosts dozens of alumni events across the globe for George Washington’s birthday.

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