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A Select Chronology of George Washington University

1799: President Washington died. His will directed that 50 shares in the Potomac Company be used to support a university in the District of Columbia.

1819: Baptist missionary Luther Rice and others formed an association to establish a college and theological institution in the nation's capital under the direction of the Baptist General Missionary Convention.

1820: The association purchases 47 acres of land for the new college just north of what is now Florida Avenue. Among the initial subscribers were President James Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, each donating $50.

1821: February 9: Congress chartered Columbian College, a nonsectarian school but with Baptist sponsorship. President James Monroe signed the act.

1821: May: Trustees elected Rev. Dr. William Staughton the first President of Columbian College.

  • September (first Wednesday) Professor Irah Chase opened the Theological Department with 11 students.

1822: A Classical Department was added. Enrollment reached 30, including 10 in the Preparatory School.

  • March 6: Students organized the Enosinian debating society. Its proceedings eventually totaled 1,800 volumes.

1824: December 15: Columbian College graduated its first class. President John Quincy Adams and the visiting Marquis de Lafayette were in attendance.

1825: The Medical Department began classes in anatomy, surgery and obstetrics in a "commodious" building at 10th and E Streets, N.W.

1825: Its plans for building a canal having failed, the Potomac Company went bankrupt. The shares designated by President Washington's will for support of a university became worthless.

1826-1828: William Cranch, long-time reporter of Supreme Court decisions, taught at the College's short-lived law school (later revived in 1865).

1826: An influential group of Baptists, meeting in New York, subscribed $50,000 to pay off part of the Columbian College debt.

1827: May 1: Classes were suspended during an acute financial crisis. Senior professors resigned. A handful of students remained in residence.

1828: May 13: Classes resumed with a three-month summer term. A normal cycle of spring and fall semesters was restored in September.

  • Congress canceled $30,000 of College debt in exchange for College property on Greenleaf's Point.

1832: Congress conveyed 180 saleable house lots in Washington to the College. The proceeds were used for endowment and debt reduction.

1844: Congress granted the College use of a building at Judiciary Square as an infirmary. It became the first general hospital in the District of Columbia and one of the nation's first teaching hospitals.

1847: Student Henry Arnold was expelled for conspiring to free a slave owned by the College steward.

  • Twenty-seven graduates formed the Alumni Association of Columbian College. Their first project was to endow a professorship.
  • The first alumni association of the Columbian College was formed on Commencement Day in 1847.

1852: Faculty urged creation of a new department distinct from the Classical Department combining studies in English, mathematics, science and engineering.

1857: Congress chartered a school for deaf and dumb children. It later merged with the Columbian Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind led by Edward Gallaudet.

1860: Students helped construct a gymnasium on College Hill.

Civil War (1861-1865): U.S. government commandeered the College Hill campus and the hospital downtown. Despite sagging enrollment, professors continued to hold classes, often in their homes. Columbian College graduated a total of 300 students, of whom 104 entered the ministry. Forty-six of the school's medical graduates served in the Union Army, 24 in the Confederate. The Medical School Infirmary downtown was destroyed by fire. The Columbian College was converted to a hospital. With 844 beds, it became one of four major military hospitals in Washington.

1865: April 14: Columbian Professor of Surgery John F. May attended the dying President, Abraham Lincoln. An enlarged government bureaucracy created more part-time students and part-time professors.

  • A revived Law Department became self-sustaining and revenue-producing.

1871: Congress changed the charter to create a non-denominational Board of Trustees. James Clarke Welling became the College's first lay president.

1872: The first student protest was recorded in the Law School, over a diploma fee.

1873: March 3: Columbian College became The Columbian University by Act of Congress.

1870s: The University purchased buildings on H Street, N.W., between 13th and 15th Streets.

1881: The University established a policy permitting the admission of women. This was considered by the University to be a trial basis.

1883: The Law School faculty declined to admit women as "not required by any public want."

1884 October: Classes in the College, the Law School and the Corcoran Scientific School began at the newly constructed Columbian University building, 15th and H Streets, N.W.

  • December 11: Medical faculty reversed an earlier decision and voted to admit four women. Clara Bliss Hines was the first Columbian female MD--Class of 1887.
  • The Corcoran Scientific School was organized.

1887: The Dental School was organized.

1888: Trustees awarded the University's first Ph.D. degrees to two faculty members.

  • Elizabeth Preston Brown and Louise Connolly graduated from the Corcoran Scientific School, the first to do so. Miss Connolly majored in teaching while Ms. Brown majored in computer.
  • September 24: Mabel Nelson Thurston was the first woman undergraduate admitted to Columbian College. Twelve other women were admitted the same year.

1889: Supreme Court Justices John Marshall Harlan and David Josiah Brewer joined the Law School faculty; each served for almost 20 years.

1891: Electric lights were installed on the first floor of the University Building.

1892: The University Treasurer was authorized to have a telephone installed.

  • The Medical School ended its experiment in coeducation.

1893: A faculty reception marked the opening of the School of Graduate Studies. Requirements were set for the awarding of graduate degrees in the College, the Medical School and the Corcoran Scientific School.

1894: Columbian Women, an organization composed of alumnae, students, and wives of the faculty, trustees and officers was organized in 1894 for the purpose of advancing the interests of women and the university.

1898: College junior William L. Mitchell volunteered to serve in the war with Spain. During World War I and the 1920s, General Billy Mitchell achieved fame as a champion of air power. He later completed degree requirements and received his B.A. in 1919 "as of the class of 1899."

  • The medical faculty opened University Hospital on H Street, N.W. between 13th and 14th.
  • A new School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy was founded. It was replaced in 1905 by the School of Politics and Diplomacy, a predecessor to the Elliott School of International Affairs.

1902: A student newspaper, The Weekly Columbian, was launched. Two years later, the paper changed its name to The Hatchet.

  • The Corcoran Scientific School, and the School of Graduate Studies were merged into one Department of Arts and Sciences.

1904: January 23 Congress approved a name change from Columbian University to The George Washington University. The change came at the prompting of the George Washington Memorial Association.

1905: Continental blue and buff--from George Washington's military uniform--were adopted as the official school colors. The previous colors were orange and blue.

  • On February 22nd the University held its first Winter Convocation.

1906: The first GW Colonials Basketball meeting was held. The team defeated Georgetown twice, going to the Southern Conference Championship. The undergraduate courses in engineering were reorganized into a new Washington College of Engineering.

1907: In its initial season the basketball team lost its first game to Virginia in Charlottesville. In the early 1900s The National College of Pharmacy and the College of Veterinary Medicine became a part of GW.

  • A "women's building" was opened by the University in September 1907. It was situated near the University Building at 1538 I Street. The building was the social center for young women at the College.

1908:The GW football team won the South Atlantic championship.

  • Latin was dropped from the BA requirements.
  • The College of Veterinary Medicine was organized.

1909: The undergraduate Division of Education became the Teachers College.

1910: Financial crisis: U.S. Attorney General investigated University finances. GW was forced to sell its major downtown property at 15th and H. Instruction continues without a break, but law and undergraduate classes met in rented buildings.

1912-1924: The Second Relocation.

1912: The University borrowed from Riggs Bank to buy property at 2023 G Street (present site of Lisner Hall) to house all of its arts and science departments.

1912-1916: The University bought additional land and buildings in the G Street area of Foggy Bottom.

1913: The Law School, reversing its decision of 20 years earlier, admitted five women as students.

1915: The Menorah Society was organized on the GW campus, a constituent of the Intercollegiate Menorah Society, for the study and promotion of Jewish culture and ideals.

1917: The U.S. entered World War I. GW mustered the Second Company of Coast Artillery, which later saw action in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

1919: Merchant-philanthropist Abram Lisner paid off all the debt ($24,500) on the G Street property.

1924: Trustees rejected a takeover bid by the Baptist Convention.

  • Corcoran Hall on 21st Street became the University's first completed construction project in Foggy Bottom.
  • Construction was completed on GW's first gymnasium, the "Tin Tabernacle," which stood in what is now the University Yard.

1925: November 14: Stockton Hall, the new Law School building at 20th and H streets, was dedicated.

1927: GW historian Samuel Flagg Bemis won the Pulitzer Prize in History for his work Pinckney's Treaty.

  • Economist Cloyd Heck Marvin, previously President of the University of Arizona, signed on for what was to be a 32-year presidency at GW.

1928: President Marvin established the School of Government, independent of the Columbian College. Its curriculum included business and international affairs.

  • A School of Library Science was organized. It continued in operation until 1941.

1930: The Men's Glee Club, led by Dr. Robert Harmon, took first place in the 14th Annual Intercollegiate Glee Club Contest at Carnegie Hall. It was the first time the GW club competed.

1932: The George Washington University Law Review began publication.

1934: Trustees authorized construction of Lisner Hall on G Street and received Mrs. Henry Alvah Strong's gift of $200,000 to build a women's dormitory.

1935-1937: Pro-peace and anti-fascist demonstrations caused rifts between students and administration.

1935-1936: Newly built Bell and Stuart Halls were ready for occupancy.

1936: The GW Law School was made a graduate school; a bachelor's degree was required for admission.

1939: Lisner Library (now Lisner Hall) opened as the University's first separate library facility.

  • Physicist Niels Bohr, in the company of Enrico Fermi and GW professors Edward Teller and George Gamow, announced the discovery of the fissionable nature of uranium at a conference at GW.

1941: The GW Football team joined the Southern Conference.

1941-1945: The University offered 387 courses to nearly 13,000 wartime students under a contract with the U.S. Office of Education for Engineering, Science and Management War Training.

World War II: An estimated 7,000 GW graduates served in the armed forces.

1946: Lisner Auditorium hosted its first commercial production, Ingrid Bergman starring in Maxwell Anderson's "Joan of Lorraine." The new auditorium was segregated, like much of Washington at the time. Ingrid Bergman joined by other protestors objected to the exclusion of African Americans.

  • First daughter Margaret Truman received a BA. Her father, President Harry Truman, was awarded an honorary doctorate the same day.

1948: "George 1," the GW Mascot became the official mascot.

1954: The National University Law School, founded in 1869, became part of GW's law school.

  • GW abolished all restrictions on minority student admissions. The new policy was to be in effect by 1955.

1959: The trustees approved creation of the National Law Center, which included the Law School, the Graduate School of Public Law and related research activities and publications.

1960: The School of Government was renamed the School of Government, Business, and International Affairs.

1962: GW awarded an honorary degree to President John F. Kennedy.

1963: Freshman Rocky Wright becomes the first African-American athlete at GW when he plays for the men's basketball team.

  • In March 1963, Norm Neverson is the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship from the university when he is recruited for the football team.

1965: Lloyd Hartman Elliott was named the 14th President for the University.

1966: The School of Government, Business and International Affairs was divided into the School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Government and Business Administration.

  • The GW football team played its last season. Football at GW was discontinued at the end of the 1966-1967 season.

1967: University President Elliott barred recruiters from campus when he learned that students might be drafted for interfering with recruiters on college campuses.

1968: More than 2,000 students attended a rally in the University Yard opposing the House Un-American Activities Committee--Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman spoke.

1969: Forty members of Students for a Democratic Society seized Maury Hall, home of the Sino-Soviet Institute, to protest University complicity with the Vietnam War.

1970: May: Students went on strike to protest the invasion of Cambodia and the killings at Kent State. The University provided a "sanctuary" for anti-war demonstrators.

  • The Marvin Center opened, but the barbershop inside it soon closed. "I guess it's just this long hair thing," said the proprietor.
  • St. Mary's Court continued as a low-income housing project until 1972 when the decision was made to demolish the site. A Parking lot for GW University stood on the site until 1978 when the ground was broken to construct housing for the elderly. The new St. Mary's Court was sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and included a professional services center staffed by GW.

1973: The University Library, begun in 1970, was completed. The building was named the Melvin Gelman Library in 1980.

  • The School of Medicine and Health Sciences relocated from 13th and H Streets to Ross Hall on the Foggy Bottom campus. For the first time since 1912, the University was located in one area.

1973-1974: Women's Studies was offered as a graduate program.

1974: President Lloyd Elliott flew to Iran to give the Shah an honorary degree.

1975: The Charles E. Smith Center was completed, giving GW its first on-campus sports arena.

1976: The Student Association was established in April 1976. Membership included all full-time, part-time, graduate, professional and undergraduate students who were registered for academic credit.

1977: Foggy Bottom metro stop opened.

1979: To resolve a controversy over planned expansion on Pennsylvania Avenue, President Lloyd Elliott agreed that Red Lion Row would remain standing, to be incorporated into the new building.

  • Quigley's closed. This fact highlighted the decline of G Street as the campus center.

1981: The attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan put GW Hospital in the spotlight as it successfully treats the wounded president.

1984: Gelman Library acquired its one-millionth volume and added it to the distinguished "Washingtoniana" collection.

1987: Benjamin Franklin University, a Washington institution offering degrees in accounting and finance, merged with GW.

1988: Stephen Joel Trachtenberg became GW President, replacing Lloyd Elliott. The School of Public and International Affairs was renamed the Elliott School of International Affairs.

1990: Gelman Library bid farewell to its card catalog. The records of GW's library, and those of other Washington-area university libraries, were now available on a computer network named Aladin.

  • The undergraduate Honors Program started up, part of a growing drive for academic excellence.

1991: The Virginia Campus opened in Loudoun County.

  • President Reagan visited GW on the tenth anniversary of his life-saving surgery at GW Hospital, received an honorary degree, and surprised millions by endorsing the Brady Bill for handgun control.

1993: The men's basketball team made it to the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen" for the first time.

  • The University hosted the press activities for the inauguration of President Clinton. The Marvin Center held its own inaugural ball.

1994: The University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement to make GW a model "Green University."

  • March: Court cases by local residents prevented the relocation of WETA to The George Washington University. WETA moved to new facilities in Arlington County.

1995: November 11: GW's Svetlana Vtyurina scored her 2,933rd kill, a new all-time record in women's collegiate volleyball.

1995-1996: GW celebrated its 175th anniversary with a year of convocations, exhibits, reunions and special events.

1996: GW named Donald R. Lehman Vice President for Academic Affairs.

  • Katie Koestner addressed date rape and alcohol at GW's first "Issues Awareness Night."
  • GW press releases became available on the World Wide Web.

1997: GW hosted its second presidential inaugural ball.

  • The women's basketball team went to the "Elite Eight" in the NCAA--the first time for a GW team.
  • History met high-tech as GW opened its neo-classic residence hall.

1998: GW and Mount Vernon College began an eighteen-month transition to "The George Washington University at Mount Vernon College."

  • GW dedicated the America's Gate at a ceremony honoring Trustee Emilio A. Fernandez.
  • The GW Libraries were accepted into the Association of Research Libraries.
  • GW made the Black Entertainment Magazine's list of top 50 colleges for African Americans.
  • Japanese firms gave $1 Million to help create a Japan-U.S. Relations Chair in GW's Elliott School of International Affairs.

1999: GW bought the former Howard Johnsons.

  • GW earned full NCAA division I certification for GW athletics.
  • Talk show host Larry King endowed $1 Million to GW's School of Media and Public Affairs.
  • GW received a one million dollar bequest from alumna Mei Yuen Hoover to establish scholarships for disabled students.

2000: GW's Columbian School of Arts and Sciences approved an undergraduate major in Women's Studies.

  • GW housed new National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Training Academy.
  • GW forms new Public Policy Institute.
  • GW Trustees expanded Honors Program to Mount Vernon Campus.
  • GW ceremony on September 5 honored Costa Rican President and broke ground for new International Affairs Building.
  • GW Y2K Group Panel Program looked at possible Y2K-related technology problems.

2002: A Five-Year, Joint-Degree program was launched by GW's School of Media and Public Affairs and the Graduate School of Political Management.

2004: GW hit the 20,000 applications mark.

  • GW announced the arrival of a new GW Data Center at the Virginia Campus with a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

2006: GW's Graduate School of Political Management joined the College of Professional Studies.

  • The GW Law School established a First-of-its-Kind research and education center to explore the role of creativity and innovation in economic development.

2007: Dr. Steven Knapp was elected by the Board of Trustees as GW's 16th President. Formerly Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs of The Johns Hopkins University, President Knapp assumed office August 1, 2007. He succeeded GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

  • GW's endowment crossed the $1-Billion threshold.
  • GW received approval for its 20-Year Foggy Bottom Campus Plan.