Presidents in the 1800s
William Staughton was the first President of Columbian College from 1821 to 1827. He was born in Coventry, England on January 4, 1770, and died in Washington, D. C. on December 12, 1829. During Staughton’s tenure the Columbian College was located on “College Hill,” an area of land bordering Florida Avenue and 14th and 15th Streets, N.W. (today the area around Meridian Hill Park). Under his administration a Preparatory School was begun, as was the Medical School. The Theological Department was discontinued in 1825. Staughton presided over the first Commencement of the college in December 1824. In attendance were Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, members of the Cabinet, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Stephen Chapin was the second President of Columbian College from 1828 to 1841. He was born in Milford, Massachusetts, Nov. 4, 1778, and died Oct. 1, 1845. He graduated from Harvard in 1804, and then studied theology under Rev. Nathaniel Emmons of Franklin, Massachusetts. He entered the Congregational ministry and served as pastor at Hillsborough, New Hampshire, from 1805 to 1808, and at Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, from 1809 to 1818. Having changed his views on the mode and subjects of baptism, Chapin entered the Baptist ministry, and in 1819 was ordained pastor of the church at North Yarmouth, Maine. In 1822 he accepted the professorship of theology in Waterville College (now Colby University) and remained there until 1828, when he became President of the Columbian College. He retained this position until 1841, when failing health compelled him to resign. A man of culture and learning, he won the regard of all with whom he associated. In Washington he was intimate with the leading statesmen and scholars of his day. His published works include sermons, addresses and essays.
Under Chapin’s administration, the first Master of Arts degrees were awarded and an Act of Congress conferred on the school a federal grant of $25,000 in city lots. At the very end of Chapin's tenure, Columbian College was free of debt.
Joel Smith Bacon
Joel Smith Bacon was President of Columbian College from 1843 to 1854. Martin Van Buren's first term as President of the United States had been severely damaged by the financial panic of 1837, and he failed in his 1840 bid for re-election. The new President, William Henry Harrison, had garnered some of his public appeal by portraying himself as a humble farmer (in reality, he was the wealthy owner of 2,000 acres of land). Joel Smith Bacon came to Columbian College from Hamilton College three years after Harrison's election. He oversaw the transition as the College's Department of Medicine moved to the old jail in Judiciary Square and became the National Medical College, one of the nation's first teaching hospitals. Other innovations included a program in natural science leading to the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy, the college's first alumni association, and the awarding of the first Doctor of Laws degree.
Joseph Getchell Binney
Joseph Getchell Binney was the fourth President of the College from 1855 to 1858. He was born at Boston, Massachusetts, on Dec. 1, 1807, and died at sea Nov. 26, 1877, while returning to Burma. He was educated at Yale and Newton Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1832. Binney settled in Savannah, Georgia, but in 1843 left for India to engage in missionary work among the Karens. He established the Karen Seminary in 1845 for the training of native ministers, but after some years he returned to America, owing to the precarious health of Mrs. Binney. He was engaged for a time as pastor at Elmira, New York, and Augusta, Georgia, and in 1855 he accepted the Presidency of Columbian College. He resigned in 1858 to resume his work among the Karens, where he labored with great success until failing health in 1875 caused him to travel to America. On his return in 1877, he died at sea and was buried in the Indian Ocean.
In 1855 the Columbian College awarded the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and the Bachelor of Philosophy. German was also added to the curriculum during Binney’s tenure.
George W. Samson
George W. Samson was President of Columbian College from 1859 to 1871. Two days after James Buchanan's inauguration in 1857, the Dred Scott Decision was handed down by the Supreme Court. For the abolitionists of the North, it was a stimulus to still stronger efforts in the battle against slavery. In the mid-term elections of 1858, the badly split Democrats suffered a resounding defeat, clearing the way for the emergence of the Republicans under Lincoln. To the Rev. George Whitefield Samson, formerly Pastor of the E Street Baptist Church, fell the difficult task of guiding Columbian College through the Civil War.
James C. Welling
James C. Welling was President of Columbian University from 1871 to 1894. The scandal-ridden presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (elected to a second term in 1872) had caused a good deal of national demoralization when Dr. James Clarke Welling, former President of St. John's College in Maryland and former holder of the Chair of Belles Lettres at Princeton University, began his distinguished tenure at Columbian College--soon to be known, following an Act of Congress in 1873, as Columbian University.
President Welling was connected with many literary, historical and scientific societies. He was the President of the Anthropological Society of Washington, President of the Board of Trustees of the Corcoran Art Gallery, Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and Chairman of its Executive Committee. He wrote extensively, but most of his published work appeared in the form of editorials and literary addresses, and as contributions to various periodicals. Under his administration the name of the institution was changed to the Columbian University, a permanent endowment fund was established for the first time, and large and conveniently arranged buildings were erected in the heart of Washington. The Law School was greatly enlarged, the Scientific School and the Dental School were established, the number of students increased from 326 in 1871 to 755 in 1891, and the number of faculty grew from twenty-five in 1871 to fifty-six in 1891.
Presidents in the 1900s
Samuel Harrison Greene
Samuel Harrison Greene was twice acting president of Columbian University, from 1894 to 1895 and again from 1900 to 1902. Greene was born in Enosburg, Vermont on December 25, 1845, the son of Rev. Columbus Greene and Martha Dow (Webber) Greene. Doctor Greene was a graduate of Colgate, receiving the degrees of A.B. (1873) and A.M. (1876); and of Hamilton Theological Seminary (1875). He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Norwich (1883), Colgate (1891) and University of Rochester (1891); as well as Doctor of Laws from Columbian University (1895) and Howard University (1895). He married Lucia A. Buzzell, daughter of a Baptist minister of Montgomery Center, Vermont, on April 23, 1866. He was ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1875 and served as a pastor in Cazenovia, New York, from 1875 to 1879. In 1879 he became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Doctor Greene gave notable service to higher education in Columbian University (now George Washington University) as a trustee from 1899-1912; the chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1899-1900; and acting president of the University, 1894-95 and 1900-02. During his tenure as Acting President, the Summer School was established as a branch of the Corcoran Scientific School.
Benaiah Longley Whitman
Benaiah Longley Whitman was president of Columbian University from 1895 to 1900. Whitman was born in Torbrook, Nova Scotia, on November 21, 1862, and he died in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1911. Whitman prepared for college in Worcester Academy, Massachusetts. He graduated with a B.A. degree from Brown University in the class of 1887, and received an M.A. degree in 1890. He received the honorary degree of D.D. from Bowdoin College in 1894 and the degree of LL.D. from Howard University in 1899 and from Furman University in 1906. He married Mary J. Scott of Newton, Massachusetts, on December 6, 1888. He was pastor of the Free Street Baptist Church in Portland, Maine, 1890-92; President of Colby University, 1892-95; President of Columbian (now George Washington) University, 1895-1900; and pastor of the Fifth Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1900-07, and the First Baptist Church in Seattle, Washington, from 1908 until his death in 1911. He was a lecturer in Bucknell University, 1900-07; a trustee of Newton Theological Institution, 1894-02, and of Crozer Theological Seminary, 1901-08; and President of the American Baptist Historical Society, 1900-07. He authored Elements of Ethics (1893), Elements of Sociology (1894), Elements of Political Science (1899), and Outlines of Political History (1900). He was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity and of Phi Beta Kappa.
President Whitman had a commanding personality. He was of large figure and his face was impressive with “philosophic calm." It was natural to him to do things in a large way. He was eminent in scholarship, and his judgments were always characterized by magnanimity. Strong intellectuality marked his sermons and addresses. Although he projected a somewhat cold demeanor during his presidency, in later years he demonstrated a greater geniality and deepening sympathies toward his fellow men.
The University grew during his administration, although financial difficulties continued--a condition that was soon to become critical. In 1898, an Act delegating control of the University to the Baptist denomination was passed by Congress. The student body increased from 1000 to 1300, and there were many additions to the faculties and many new courses of study. Also during Whitman’s tenure the University Extension Program was established, library science was added to the curriculum, a new law school building was erected, and the training of nurses began at the University's new hospital (whose new female superintendent was also the first woman to appear on the official faculty list). A special event was held during this period to celebrate the establishment of the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy. President McKinley and his cabinet attended the opening of the new school.
Charles Willis Needham
Charles Willis Needham was the seventh President of The George Washington University from 1902 to 1910. He was born September 30, 1848 in Castile, New York. He died June 1, 1935 in LaSalle, Illinois. He attended Castile Academy and Albany Law School, where he earned an LL.B. degree. He received LL.D. degrees from Rochester University and Georgetown University, Kentucky. From 1874-90 Needham practiced law in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. He became professor of law at Columbian (now George Washington) University in 1897 and was selected as President in 1902. A Baptist layman and Dean of the Law School when elected as the eighth President of the University, Needham was hampered by financial difficulties. His tenure was nevertheless marked by many outstanding events. A training school for nurses opened in connection with the Columbian University Hospital, and in 1904 an Act secularizing the University and authorizing a change in the name to "The George Washington University" was passed by Congress. The first convocation of the newly named University was held in 1905, where the new seal and flag were displayed for the first time.
The institution's new charter also permitted it to organize colleges. Thus the National College of Pharmacy, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Washington College of Engineering (later renamed the College of Engineering and Mechanical Arts) became part of the university. Although endowed with a new name, the expansion of schools and courses combined with the costs of construction and maintenance created a heavy economic burden on the University. In 1910, the House of Representatives, acting under a provision of the original charter, requested the Attorney General of the United States to examine alleged fiscal irregularities at the University. Dr. Needham resigned in April of that year. After leaving the university Needham taught law at American University and was solicitor general for the Interstate Commerce Commission, retiring from that position in 1933.
Charles Herbert Stockton
Charles Herbert Stockton served as the ninth president from 1910 to 1918. The son of a Protestant Episcopal clergyman, he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 13, 1845, and died in 1924. Stockton received a private school education, and at the age of 16 he entered the Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1865. He went into active service at once as a midshipman and was rapidly promoted in rank. In the summer of 1864 he served on the USS Macedonian during its memorable pursuit of the Confederate steamers Florida and Tallahassee. While Lieutenant Commander, in 1889, he cruised the Arctic Ocean from the mouth of the Mackenzie to Wrangal Land, in command of the Thetis. He was commissioned a Captain in 1899 and Rear Admiral in 1906, retiring on October 13, 1907. Subsequently, from 1908-1909, he was First United States Delegate to the London Naval Conference.
He was a lecturer in international law at the United States Naval War College from 1897-1900 and served as President of the same institution from 1898-1900. The following are among the works which he either wrote or edited: History of the United States Asylum, The Laws and Usages of War: A Naval War Code, and A Manual of International Law. It was in recognition of his services in the field of international law that the University conferred upon him the honorary LL.D. at the 1909 Commencement.
Charles Herbert Stockton was made Acting President in May 1910. In June of that year the Attorney General prepared a preliminary report upon the financial affairs of the University and found that the expenses of the University had exceeded its income and endangered the endowment. A heavy mortgage was placed on the properties housing the Medical School and Hospital. President Stockton served without compensation during the early years of his administration. He maintained a close scrutiny on all expenditures and laid the foundation for a solid recovery for the University.
Through the urging of Dr. Stockton, the Department of Arts and Sciences was moved in 1912 to 2023 G Street, the area that George Washington himself had selected as the site for "his" University. Foggy Bottom was established as the new central location. President Stockton's credentials could not have been better to meet the challenges that would confront the University. Perhaps his most significant qualification for guiding the University during World War I was his status as a retired Rear Admiral. As the United States drew ever closer to full involvement in the conflict, Stockton placed the University at the government's disposal. Also during the Stockton Presidency, the Law School became co-educational, the College of Engineering and Mechanical Arts became the School of Engineering, and the Summer Sessions were established.
William Miller Collier
William Miller Collier was president of George Washington University from 1918 to 1921. Collier was born November 11, 1867, in Lodi, New York, the son of Rev. Isaac H. and Frances Miller. He married Frances Beardsley Ross of Auburn on September 13, 1893. Collier died on April 15, 1956. An alumnus of Hamilton College (A.B., 1889; A.M., 1892), Clinton, New York, and Columbia University Law School, Dr. Collier was a lawyer by profession and a recognized authority on Civil Service. He rose from law clerk to become referee in bankruptcy and president of the New York State Civil Service Commission (1899-1903). Dr. Collier wrote a number of books on law. He was a distinguished lecturer on international law and diplomacy for many years, both at New York University Law School and the George Washington University.
Dr. Collier served and was a friend of seven United States Presidents. He was the First Solicitor of the former Department of Commerce and Labor and then special assistant to the Attorney General in charge of antitrust cases under President Theodore Roosevelt, who later appointed him to be Minister in Spain (1905-09). In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson sent him to Norway to head the United States delegation at an international conference to frame a government for the island of Spitzenberg.
President Collier assumed his duties at the University in the late summer of 1918 as the American involvement in Europe was reaching its highest point. A unit of the Student Army Training Corps and a United States Naval Unit were established for the period of the war. In 1918 a special convocation was held for the first conferring upon a ruling prince of an honorary degree in the Nation's Capital. His majesty, Albert, King of the Belgians, received the honor. In 1921, having presided over the centennial celebration of the University, Collier resigned when President Warren G. Harding nominated him for an ambassadorship to Chile (where he served from 1921-28), and he was instrumental in mediating a border dispute between Chile and Peru. Universities in both countries honored him for his part in the settlement.
Howard Lincoln Hodgkins
Howard Lincoln Hodgkins served as President Ad Interim from 1921 to 1923. Hodgkins was born in Elgin, Illinois, June 23, 1862, and died in Washington, D. C., February 13, 1931. He was a member of the first class that graduated from the Washington High School, in 1878, and entered Columbian College in the fall of that year, graduating in the class of 1883. He received from the University successively the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Science. For forty-eight years he served the University as tutor, professor, dean, and president, and every action of his was in aid of what he believed to be for the benefit of the student.
Upon the reorganization of the Alumni Association on February 28, 1887, Dean Hodgkins became Secretary and served for a period of twenty-five years. As the one permanent officer of the alumni, he kept alive alumni interests and stimulated alumni activities in support of the University. As an outgrowth of this activity, he prepared a historical catalogue of the University in 1891, covering the first seventy years of the life of the institution. From 1917-20, Dean Hodgkins served as president of the General Alumni Association, and upon the resignation of President Collier in 1921, he was elected President of the University - the first alumnus to serve. His appointment to the presidency in 1921 was viewed as an ad interim appointment, and on the election of a successor in 1923, he became Dean of the University, holding that office to the end of his life. To his colleagues in these later years, Dean Hodgkins was more than just a member of the faculty. He was a friend and confidant to many, greatly loved for his quiet simplicity and understanding. He stayed true to his vision of the University through nearly fifty years. When giving presentations in the classroom and elsewhere he was never flamboyant but minimized himself to the best advantage of his subject matter. He left the imprint of a great teacher in the hearts and lives of thousands of students.
William Mather Lewis
William Mather Lewis, the eleventh president of George Washington University, served from 1923 to 1927. Lewis was born in Howell, Michigan, on March 24, 1878 and moved with his family to Joliet, Illinois, where he received his elementary education. He attended high school in Galesburg, Illinois, and graduated from Lake Forest College with an A.B. degree in 1900. He received his M.A. at Illinois College in 1902, where he also taught English literature. In 1903 he returned to Lake Forest College, where he taught until becoming headmaster at Lake Forest Academy in 1906. He resigned in 1913 and went abroad for two years to study English, French, and German school systems. Upon his return in 1915, citizens of Lake Forest elected him mayor, and he instituted a far-reaching “City Beautiful” project.
During World War I he was executive secretary of the National Patriotic Societies. From 1919-21 he was director of the Savings Division of the United States Treasury, where he oversaw a national thrift campaign. In 1921 he became chief of the education service for the United States Chamber of Commerce, advising cities around the country how to improve their school curriculum, buildings, and equipment. “Spend as much money as possible for education, but make it pay a good dividend,” was the backbone of his advice. In 1923 he was chosen as President of George Washington University. President Lewis was well known as a brilliant speaker and in demand by various groups. During his four-year presidency, a new gymnasium was erected and Mrs. Joshua Evans, Jr., was elected by the Alumni as the first woman member of the Board of Trustees. After leaving George Washington University, Lewis assumed the presidency of Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. He died in 1945.
Cloyd Heck Marvin
Cloyd Heck Marvin was the twelfth President of the George Washington University, a position he held from 1927 to 1959. The thirty-two years of Dr. Marvin's presidency is the longest in the history of the school. He was born August 22, 1889, in Findlay, Ohio. He moved with his family to Riverside, California, in 1909 and graduated from high school there that year. After beginning his studies at Stanford University, he earned an A.B. degree (1915) and M.A. degree (1916) from the University of Southern California, and an M.A. (1917) and Ph.D. (1919) from Harvard. He served as a faculty member and dean at U.C.L.A. from 1919-22 and became president of the University of Arizona in 1922 at the age of 33. He served five years there before coming to GW in 1927.
When he arrived, the “G Street high school,” as some derided it, was crowded into a roughly one square block footprint, and had 109 full-time faculty and an enrollment of 5,478. Dr. Marvin reorganized the administration of the University. With the assistance of the Board of Trustees he revamped and strengthened its financial structure so that at no time in his administration, even during the depression and the war years, was there a retrenchment through reduction in the size of the teaching staff or in faculty salaries. By the 1930s, the University had become well established in the Foggy Bottom area, and the institution had become a true urban university. By the time Marvin retired in 1959, the University had spread out to more than six times its old area, and the faculty and enrollment had doubled. Endowments were four times bigger and physical properties had increased eighteen fold. President Marvin died April 27, 1969, in Washington, D.C. His widow Dorothy Betts Marvin (whom he married in 1917) gave a naming gift of $1.5 million for the Cloyd Heck Marvin Student Center in 1971.
Oswald Symister Colclough
Oswald Symister Colclough twice served as acting president of The George Washington University: from 1959 to 1961 and 1964 to 1965. He was also a professor of law and Dean of the Law School from 1949-1953, Dean of Facilities from 1953-64 and Provost from 1961-64, retiring from GW in 1964.
Colclough was born in Monroetown, Pennsylvania, on November 18, 1898. He died January 26, 1981, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Following graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1920, he attended GW's Law School and received an LL.B. in 1935, receiving the John Bell Larner Medal for the highest grades in the Bachelor of Laws program. While at the Naval Academy, Colclough served with the Atlantic Fleet in World War I. In 1945 he was promoted to rear admiral and in November of that year he was confirmed by the Senate as Judge Advocate General of the Navy. During World War II he commanded submarines for the North Pacific Fleet, later serving as commanding officer of the battleship North Carolina. He retired from active military service in 1950 with the rank of vice admiral.
Admiral Colclough was active in professional and public service roles in the law, defense policy, education and government throughout his academic, legal and military careers. He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Conference on Law of the Sea in 1958 and 1960, Chairman of the White House Disarmament Task Force on Navy Inspection (1955-1958), and Director of the Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Research Institute at GW, among other positions. In 1961 GW awarded him an honorary degree as Doctor of Science.
Thomas Henry Carroll
Thomas Henry Carroll, George Washington University's thirteenth president, served from 1961 to 1964. Carroll was a specialist in economics and business administration, and served seven years as Vice President of the Ford Foundation before assuming the Presidency of the University. He was born May 12, 1914, in San Francisco, and earned a B.S. degree from the University of California (1934). Dr. Carroll earned M.B.A. (1936) and Doctor of Commercial Science (1939) degrees from Harvard University. From 1939-1942 he was a faculty member and assistant dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, the latter at the age of twenty-six.
After serving in World War II, he was dean of the University of North Carolina’s School of Business Administration from 1950-1954. Dr. Carroll began work with the Ford Foundation in 1946, when he agreed to serve on an advisory committee on policy and programs. He later became director of economic development and administration before taking over as vice president of the Foundation in 1954. President John F. Kennedy spoke at Carroll's inauguration, receiving an honorary degree from the alma mater of his wife Jacqueline, class of 1951. In his remarks President Kennedy said, “My wife beat me to this honor by eight or nine years. It took her two years to get a degree, and it took me two minutes; but in any case, we are both grateful.”
Before his sudden death on July 27, 1964, President Carroll had overseen the beginning of work on the new wing of the University Hospital and the University's participation in a new consortium of local universities to strengthen graduate studies. He emphasized the centrality of the liberal arts in the curriculum of the University and recommended the merger of the Junior College with Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. He gave increased emphasis to international affairs and established the Institute for Sino-Soviet Studies. He inaugurated a music program and provided new teaching facilities for the fine arts. During his tenure, the University increased the annual operating budget from $18 million to $25 million, invested $5 million in the acquisition of additional land and buildings, and student enrollment increased 17%, from 9,595 to 11,246.
Lloyd H. Elliott
Lloyd H. Elliott was President of The George Washington University from 1965 to 1988. Dr. Elliott became University President during the turbulent years of the Vietnam Era and student protests. By the end of his tenure Dr. Elliott had brought to the University financial stability and continued growth through academic development and his many building programs.
As Dr. Elliott considered libraries to be the backbone of any campus, his proudest achievement was the building of the three libraries currently on the main campus: the Melvin Gelman Library, the Jacob Burns Law Library, and the Paul Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library. In addition to the library projects, the Academic Center (comprised of Smith, Rome and Phillips Halls), Funger Hall, and the National Law Center's Theodore N. Lerner Hall were completed. In 1970 Dr. Elliott opened the Cloyd Heck Marvin Student Center, a high priority project because of the great need for additional space for student activities. In 1973, a landmark year for the University, GW's medical training program was moved from 13th and H Streets, N.W. to the Walter G. Ross Hall. With the relocation of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the University was for the first time located in one central area. The Charles E. Smith Center for Physical Education and Athletics, which replaced the old "Tin Tabernacle" gymnasium, was dedicated in 1975.
During his tenure, Dr. Elliott launched the Educational Opportunity Program and created the new faculty rank of "University Professor." He increased the number of endowed professorships from three to twenty, and he is also credited with the tremendous growth in the University's endowment -- from $8 million in 1965 to $200 million in 1988.
Presidents in the 2000s
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was president of The George Washington University from 1988 to 2007. He came to GW from the University of Hartford, where he had been President for eleven years. Before assuming the presidency of Hartford, Trachtenberg served for eight years at Boston University as Vice President for Academic Services and Academic Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Earlier, in Washington, D.C., he was a Special Assistant for two years to the U.S. Education Commissioner, Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He has been an attorney with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and a legislative aide to former Indiana Congressman John Brademas.
In 1989, President Trachtenberg created the Office of Campus Life and made a commitment to offer programs and services "to enhance the personal, professional, social and cultural development of the University community." Other accomplishments include the remodeling of Lisner Auditorium and the campus bookstore, new seating for the Smith Center, the development of Francis Field for GW Athletics, and the creation of a 24-hour reading room within Gelman Library.
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg became GW President in 1988, replacing Lloyd Elliott. The School of Public and International Affairs was renamed the Elliott School of International Affairs. President Trachtenberg affirmed his commitment to the importance of teaching at the University with the establishment of the University Teaching Center. He also created the 21st Century Scholars program, allowing high school students within the District of Columbia to attend the University and participate in aspects of campus life. President Trachtenberg endorsed and advanced policies designed to increase excellence in research, graduate and undergraduate liberal arts education, budgetary stability and quality management for the University. Between August 28, 1995, and May 19, 1996, the University celebrated its 175th Anniversary.
Steven Knapp became the sixteenth president of the George Washington University in August 2007. Dr. Knapp came to GW after serving as provost of the Johns Hopkins University since 1996, where he also served as dean of the college of arts and sciences from 1994 to 1996. Dr. Knapp was a professor of English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, for 16 years prior to his tenure at Johns Hopkins, specializing in Romanticism, literary theory, and the intersection of 18th and 19th century English literature with philosophy and religion. He authored two books and numerous articles that continue to be widely read today. Dr. Knapp holds doctoral and master’s degrees from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University.
Dr. Knapp’s priorities as GW’s president included enhancing the university’s partnerships with neighboring institutions, expanding the scope of its research, strengthening its worldwide community of alumni, enlarging its students’ opportunities for public service, and leading its transformation into a model of urban sustainability. He worked to generate new opportunities, resources, and recognition to position GW University and students as leaders in the advancement of education, science, technology, the arts, public service, and policy and law. As the first George Washington president to reside on campus, Dr. Knapp moved into the F Street House, an historic Greek Revival building on the National Register of Historic Places that remains a focal point for university life.
In June 2016, Dr. Knapp announced that he would resign and GW would have a new president in 2017.
Thomas J. LeBlanc
Thomas J. LeBlanc was unanimously elected by The Board of Trustees of the George Washington University as the University's seventeenth President on January 6, 2017 and began his service to the University on August 1, 2017.
An accomplished academic leader, Dr. LeBlanc previously served as the Executive Vice President, Provost and Professor of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Miami. In that role he was both the Chief Academic Officer and the Chief Budget Officer, responsible for the University’s ten schools and colleges, the library system, the Division of Student Affairs, the Division of Continuing and International Education, and undergraduate education, admissions and financial aid.
In May 2021, Dr. LeBlanc announced that he would retire. On October 5, 2021, the Board of Trustees approved a resolution to honor Dr. LeBlanc's service to GW, awarding him the status of president emeritus at the conclusion of his term. Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights commended Dr. LeBlanc’s leadership through the pandemic and celebration of the University’s bicentennial, highlighting his commitment to GW's medical enterprise, student experience, alumni engagement and student aid. He completed his presidency in December 2021.
Mark S. Wrighton
Mark S. Wrighton became George Washington University’s eighteenth president on January 1, 2022. For almost 24 years (July 1995-May 2019), Dr. Wrighton served as the 14th Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of Washington University in St. Louis. In the years following his appointment, Washington University made significant progress in student quality, campus improvements, resource development, curriculum, and international reputation.
Dr. Wrighton currently serves on the Board of Directors of Brooks Automation, Corning Incorporated, and Forest Park Forever. He is a Trustee of the Concordance Leadership Academy and the Institute of International Education; and he is a Member of the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Wrighton is the author or co-author of more than 300 articles published in professional and scholarly journals, and he holds 16 patents. He has research interests in the areas of transition metal catalysis, photochemistry, surface chemistry, molecular electronics, and in photoprocesses at electrodes.
Dr. Wrighton’s goal is to work with the GW community to establish a trajectory that puts the University on a path of greater contributions and worldwide influence.