Officials conclude bicentennial celebration, launch initiative to increase financial aid

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

The Bash featured an acrobatics show on the walls of Gelman Library and remarks from top administrators.

Officials wrapped up the University’s bicentennial with a culminating, weekend-long celebration on campus, unveiling a new fundraising push aimed at increasing financial aid at Saturday night’s Bicentennial Bash.

The GW Centuries Celebration Weekend was filled with events for parents, alumni and the University community, capping off a multi-month recognition that began in February and was primarily celebrated virtually amid public health concerns. Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights said officials will prioritize scholarships and fellowships through the new action, which will help close the “financial gap” for incoming undergraduates who receive federal Pell Grants.

Speights said the University raised $30,000 for the initiative during the weekend.

“This is just the beginning of our work to ensure that GW opens the doors of opportunity for the most talented students around the world,” Speights said at the Bicentennial Bash. “We are making scholarships and fellowships a major fundraising priority to ensure every future leader has the same opportunity.”

The Bicentennial Bash took place in Kogan Plaza Saturday night with food trucks, music and an aerial performance on the walls of Gelman Library for students, alumni, family, faculty and other GW community members. Officials said late last month that 12,000 people registered for the event.

The weekend also included events like a tour of campus, alumni reception events, a student showcase and a film screening. Officials also honored 73 former students as “Monumental Alumni,” hoisting banners with their names and photos around campus.

The University launched a $1 billion fundraising campaign in 2014, which lasted until 2017, for expenses like student scholarships, endowed faculty positions, construction projects and GW’s athletics program. Officials had announced plans at a Board of Trustees meeting in February 2019 to unveil a major fundraising campaign at the bicentennial celebration.

The new initiative comes as the University community emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, when officials executed several rounds of staff layoffs and other mitigation strategies to close a $180 million budget gap.

“Every bit counts, and every gift is important,” Speights said. “Our students should have access to an education without the burden of financial stress, and I want you to know that we are working every day to make this a reality.”

The push also coincides with several administrative changes at GW, with Mark Wrighton set to replace University President Thomas LeBlanc in January and Interim Provost Chris Bracey filling in for Brian Blake, who left the University this summer.

Ishani Chettri contributed reporting.

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