The George Washington University

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The George Washington University (GWU) is a private university in Washington, D.C., founded in 1821 as The Columbian College.



George Washington had long argued for the creation of a university in the District of Columbia, and in his will, even bequeathed fifty shares of the Potomac Company to it. "I give and bequeath in perpetuity the fifty shares which I hold in the Potomac Company (under the aforesaid Acts of the Legislature of Virginia) towards the endowment of a UNIVERSITY to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia, under the auspices of the General Government, if that Government should incline to extend a fostering hand towards it."[1] ( However, the Congress never acted on this bequest.

Aware of Washington's wishes, a group of men, led by Luther Rice, a Baptist minister, later raised funds to purchase a site for a college to educate missionaries and the clergy. A large building was constructed on what is now Meridian Hill and on February 9 1821, President James Monroe approved the Congressional charter creating The Columbian College. President James Monroe, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, the Marquis de Lafayette and other dignitaries attended the College's first commencement exercises in 1824.

The name of the institution was changed to Columbian University in 1873 and to The George Washington University in 1904. The university became one of the first institutions in the United States to grant a Ph.D. in 1888.

Since the 1970s, GWU, under the leadership of presidents Lloyd Hartman Elliott and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, has became a major undergraduate and graduate institution. It has grown immensely in recent years, and is at present the largest private landowner in the District of Columbia, and second largest overall (behind the federal government).

In June 1999, the university purchased the Mount Vernon College for Women near Georgetown, and it became the George Washington University Mount Vernon Campus.


The university is made up of a number of colleges that have different disciplines within them.


The university has three campuses: The main campus in Foggy Bottom, the Mount Vernon campus in northern Washington, DC, and the Virginia campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The university also owns land and buildings around the Foggy Bottom campus that are not used for academic purposes; these include the mall at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave, and the land under the International Monetary Fund building.

Foggy Bottom Campus

This is the main campus, occupying 43 acres (170,000 m²) and over one hundred buildings on fourteen city blocks, plus portions of other blocks.

The major and notable buildings are:

  • Libraries: Melvin Gelman Library, Jacob Burns Law Library and Paul Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library
  • Medical: The George Washington University Hospital serves the university and the entire region. This is typically where presidents in need of urgent medical help are taken, as was President Ronald Reagan after a failed assassination attempt in 1981. The current hospital is across the street from the lot of the old hospital, which was torn down in 2003-2004.
  • Academic
    • 814 20th St, formerly the Union Methodist Episcopal Church, cornerstone laid 1854, making it the oldest building in the university.
    • The Academic Center, a complex of three buildings, Phillips Hall, Rome Hall and Smith Hall of Art, and home to the computer center.
    • Corcoran Hall, built in 1924 as the first building built for GWU on the Foggy Bottom campus, is the birthplace of the bazooka. This is the center of the sciences at GW.
    • 1957 E St., completed in 2003 as the new home to the Elliott School of International Affairs, as well as lecture halls and dormitory rooms. GW Alum Gen. Colin Powell visited GW to officially open this building.
    • Tompkins Hall, home of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
    • Media & Public Affairs Building, which houses the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and the Jack Morton Auditorium, where CNN's Crossfire was broadcasted until June 3rd, 2005.
  • Activity
    • Cloyd Heck Marvin Center, the central building of the university and home to the food court (J Street - there is no J St in Washington, so the name was open), the Cafritz Conference Center and the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. It also houses The Hippodrome, an area for students to relax and have fun, including a public bowling alley in Washington, DC on the fifth floor.
    • Lisner Auditorium, the main auditorium of the university and home to the Dimock Gallery of art. When built it was the largest in the city.
  • Athletic: The centerpiece is the Charles E. Smith Center, home of the Colonials and a fully equipped athletics center which occupies nearly an entire city block. There are also four tennis courts nearby, and the Lerner Health and Wellness Center.
  • Other Holdings: GWU also owns a large portion of the area, either just the land or the buildings as well. Among these are the mall at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave, an office block at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave with many student-oriented services, and The George Washington University Inn.
  • Residences: There are 23 residence halls on the Foggy Bottom campus, not including Townhouses or the Halls at the Mount Vernon Campus, capable of housing over 6000 students.

Mount Vernon Campus

This wooded campus is located on 23 acres (93,000 m²) in northwest Washington, DC, and was purchased by GWU in 1999. It was exclusively a woman's college, but since the acquisition it is now co-ed, though it still has a large emphasis on women's academics and athletics. The Eckles Memorial Library serves this campus, and there are NCAA Division 1 fields for women's softball, women's and men's soccer, and women's and men's lacrosse. There are six residence halls on this campus.

Virginia Campus

Located in Loudoun County, Virginia, this campus consists of a single large building sitting in a 90 acre (360,000 m²) plot, and is mostly used for graduate research.

Students and Faculty

There are 23,417 students enrolled for the 2003-2004 academic year. In 2001, there were 1508 full-time and 2725 part-time members of the faculty.

Clubs and Traditions

There are over three hundred and fifty student organizations at the University, including organizations of common interest or political activism, ethnic organizations, and greek organizations. It is also home to one of the first virtual student organizations in the United States named ETLSO. The Educational Technology and Leadership Student Organization (ETLSO) caters to the needs of distance education students.

Intramural sports are also very popular in addition to the NCAA Division I varsity teams.

Though the official mascot is the Colonial, since 1996 the placement of a bronze hippo in the center of campus has caused the Hippo ( to become a second mascot for many. There is also a secret society, founded by President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, called the Order of the Hippo. Little is known about the organization.

There are 8 Panhellenic sororities on campus, including Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Phi (, Delta Gamma, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Phi Sigma Sigma, Sigma Delta Tau and Sigma Kappa.

Theta Tau, the USA's oldest and foremost engineering fraternity is active on campus.


GW has an extensive Division I program that includes Baseball, Men's and Women's Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Gymnastics, Women's Lacrosse, Rowing, Men's and Women's Soccer, Softball, Squash, Swimming & Diving, Men's and Women's Tennis, Volleyball, Men's and Women's Water Polo.

The teams are called the Colonials and have achieved great successes in recent years including a first round victory in the Men's NCAA Division-I Soccer Tournament in 2004 and basketball beating No. 9 Michigan State and No. 12 Maryland in back to back games to win the 2004 BB&T Classic. The Men's Basketball team went on to win the Atlantic-10 West Title and the Atlantic-10 Tournament Title (earning an automatic bid to the 2005 NCAA Tournament).

Colonials athletic teams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

GWU's football team won the Sun Bowl in El Paso in 1956. The school last competed in the sport in 1966 as a member of the Southern Conference.[2] (

Noted Alumni

Noted Faculty

Presidents of The George Washington University

External links



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