University President Thomas LeBlanc said GW’s bicentennial celebrations will begin remotely this spring, but he is hoping for an in-person fall semester and end to the anniversary celebration.
LeBlanc said the bicentennial celebration will kick off in February on Charter Day – commemorating the congressional act signed Feb. 9, 1821 establishing the University – and will end during Colonials Weekend scheduled from Oct. 1-3, 2021. He said recent progress with the development of COVID-19 vaccines gives him hope that fall events will be able to take place in person.
“We had originally envisioned a lot of in-person events, including a kickoff event on Charter Day in February, culminating in our big [Colonials Weekend] in October, which, by the way, I’m still optimistic we’ll be able to do that one in person,” LeBlanc said.
He said no decisions have been made about the fall 2021 semester, but officials are planning and hoping for a full return to campus. LeBlanc had said at a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month that a “full return” wasn’t likely in the fall, although officials will be able to “do more than we’re doing now.”
“If I asked the public health experts to give me probabilities, they probably wouldn’t be in a position to do it,” LeBlanc said. “But they would tell me the same thing – that there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
But he added that there is a lot of optimism given recent vaccine news. GW served as a clinical research site for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use authorization Friday.
“I think it’s important to realize that we’re learning every single week about ways we could make our community safer and the things that we can do to ensure or to at least maximize the probability that we can bring everybody back to campus in the fall,” LeBlanc said. “And that’s what we’ll work on during the coming nine months.”
He said the bicentennial celebrations will also include school-based events, a short film series and other “nostalgic” pieces.
“We’re going to be recognizing some of the most distinguished alumni from this University over time, and it’s an incredible list,” LeBlanc said. “We’re going to be celebrating the accomplishments of our faculty going back the full 200 years. There have been tremendous advances in human knowledge that have come from this University. We’ll celebrate the students who’ve graduated and gone on to great things.”
Jared Gans contributed reporting.