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An Inaugural Occasion

As Washington throws its biggest party, GW is on the guest list.

In January, GW rang in the presidential inauguration with celebrations and events on and off campus. From serving their communities at the national Points of Light service event to dancing the night away at GW's own inaugural ball, students, alumni, and other community members welcomed the new presidential era in style.

Some braved street closures and chilly weather to witness the swearing-in on the National Mall and the inaugural parade, while GW hosted cozier viewing parties at the Marvin Center.

For more photos and coverage of the inauguration at GW, visit

Crowds assembled for the inauguration ceremony and parade for President Barack Obama's second term Jan. 21.

Nick Gingold

Students took the short walk from the Foggy Bottom Campus to the National Mall to join an estimated 500,000 to 800,000 people gathered for President Obama's second swearing-in.

Rick Reinhard

President Knapp makes a champagne toast at the GW Inaugural Ball.

William Atkins

At GW's Inaugural Ball—a tradition since 1993, and the nation's only major university inaugural ball—students, as well as staff and faculty members, celebrated with a variety of bands and performances. All 5,500 tickets for the black-tie event, held on Inauguration Day at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, sold out in a single day after the election in November.

William Atkins

GW students shared their personal inaugural experiences on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms with the hashtag #GWInaugural as part of the university's social media contest. Almost 300 people registered, producing 13,218 tweets and 285 Instagram photos, including this one of actress and alumna Kerry Washington, BA '98 (left).

Seth Gold

On Jan. 19—designated by President Obama as a national day of service—GW students, faculty and staff members, and alumni participated in a service event at the D.C. Armory, helping pack more than 85,000 kits that included personal care items, hand-knitted scarves, and individually written letters. The kits were collected for deployed U.S. service members, veterans, and first responders. GW was a co-sponsor of the event, along with the Points of Light Foundation, Target, and several D.C. organizations.

William Atkins

William Atkins

George Washington Letter Donated to GW Museum

Albert H. Small's gift sheds light on president's feelings about Pierre L'Enfant.

With GW trustee Robert Perry, BS '70 (left), and President Steven Knapp (right), collector Albert H. Small helps unveil a portrait of himself that will be displayed in the new GW Museum. He donated his extensive historical collection to GW for the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection.

William Atkins

The newest addition to the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana collection is a 220-year-old letter from President George Washington, purchased by collector Albert H. Small for the GW Museum.

From President Washington to City Commissioner David Stuart, the letter is dated Nov. 30, 1792—eight years before Congress would hold its first session in D.C.—and is concerned with the District's design.

"Have you yet decided on a plan for the capitol?" President Washington inquired of Commissioner Stuart in the letter. "Is anything done towards the foundation of the president's house?"

The letter had been owned by a private collector in New York and was not publicly displayed; Mr. Small only became aware of its existence after seeing it in an auction catalog.

"It came out of the clear blue sky, so to speak," Mr. Small says. "There are always things [in auction catalogs] that are interesting to a person like me."

Mr. Small says he knew the letter would be a significant addition to his Washingtoniana Collection, which includes maps, drawings, letters, documents, lithographs, and books relating to the history and evolution of the nation's capital that he collected over a period of more than 60 years. He donated the materials to GW in 2011.

A 220-year-old letter, written by George Washington, is the newest addition to the collection.

Courtesy Christie's Images

"I had a pretty good feel for it," he says. "It's a good letter."

The letter also discusses the possible rehiring of renowned and temperamental architect Pierre L'Enfant, a contentious figure whom Washington had fired in February of that year for insubordination.

President Washington wrote that he wanted "a man of fertile genius and comprehensive ideas…one who shall always reside here…But where, you may ask, is the character to be found who possesses these qualifications? I frankly answer I know not! Major L'Enfant…if he could have been restrained within proper bounds and his temper less untoward, is the only person…[whom] I think fit for it."

"He was controversial," Mr. Small says of Pierre L'Enfant, whose grid plan is still an essential foundation of the structure of Washington, D.C. "That's part of the reason George Washington in this letter [discusses] controversy about him. It's part of the essence of the letter."

The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection will eventually reside in the new GW Museum on the Foggy Bottom Campus, in the restored Woodhull House. It will be accessible to students, scholars, and the public.

The museum itself is, after a symbolic groundbreaking with University President Steven Knapp and other school officials in October, on track for its slated opening in fall 2014. It will also house The Textile Museum and the university's existing collection of fine art. GW also intends to construct a new facility dedicated to the study and care of the museum's historical collections, a state-of-the-art conservation and resource center to be located on GW's Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Va.

—Laura Donnelly-Smith

A Smoke-Free GW

GW has pledged to make all of its campuses smoke free by fall 2013.

Jessica McConnell Burt

GW is aiming to make all of its campuses smoke free by this fall, joining more than 800 other colleges and universities in the country that have decided to eliminate smoking on their campuses.

President Steven Knapp made a smoke-free pledge in November at an event in the Marvin Center's Great Hall, which also featured remarks by graduate students Ruth Kai and Julien Guttman, members of Colonials for Clean Air, a student-led advocacy initiative for a smoke-free policy. The pledge is part of the American Cancer Society's 37th annual Great American Smokeout.

Smoking will be banned within 25 feet of all university-owned building entrances and public spaces. Students, as well as faculty and staff members, will work together in the upcoming year to determine specifics of the smoke-free policy, including signage, smoking cessation programs, education, and enforcement. The university already prohibits smoking in all academic, athletic, and recreational and administrative support facilities.

A Student Association referendum in February 2012 showed that two-thirds of respondents supported a 25-foot smoking ban around buildings and in public spaces such as Kogan Plaza and University Yard.

The issue has become increasingly urgent for anti-smoking advocates, as a growing body of research indicates that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke (smoke inhaled from someone else's cigarette, cigar, or pipe). In fact, in 2009, the American College Health Association issued a position statement that encouraged all colleges and universities to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a 100 percent indoor and outdoor smoke-free environment.

GW will work with community members who wish to break their addiction to tobacco products by providing smoking cessation support. In October, the university began offering faculty and staff members free coaching by telephone and up to eight weeks of over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy at no cost. Additional information is available by visiting GW's smoking cessation website at

Technology for the Heart

A newly formed medical technology company is aiming to apply the breakthrough research of GW faculty members to the treatment of dangerous irregular heartbeats.

The company, LuxCath LLC, was formed in a partnership between the university and investment firm Allied Minds Inc.

The technology is based on collaborative research by Marco Mercader, a cardiologist at GW Medical Faculty Associates and professor in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Matthew Kay, a biomedical engineer in the School of Engineering and Applied Science; and Narine Sarvazyan, a physiologist in SMHS.

The company is developing real-time visualization technology to aid the treatment of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat.

A relatively new and minimally invasive procedure, called radio-frequency catheter ablation, is used to restore the heartbeat to a normal pace, but it optimally requires a real-time, lesion-identifying visualization tool in order for the procedure to be performed consistently, effectively, quickly, and safely.

"We formed LuxCath to ensure that electrophysiologists are treating the right parts of the heart in atrial fibrillation patients quickly and effectively," says Omar Amirana, managing director for life sciences at Allied Minds. "LuxCath's technology should significantly improve procedural outcomes for patients, speed up procedures, as well as minimize costly and burdensome follow-up re-treatments."

The collaboration represents a growing interest at the university in investing in research programs that may become the basis of corporate partnerships.

"Such partnerships are crucial to bring the benefits of collaborative research and the development of innovative technologies to those who need them, and to provide an opportunity to fully develop and provide products in the commercial market," GW Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa says.

Dr. Amirana commends GW's efforts. "We were impressed with the collaboration across multiple disciplines and among multiple schools at GW in this arena. Bringing new thinking to problem solving and cross-fertilizing ideas to optimize and apply an innovative technology to a real-world problem was particularly compelling to us," he says.

Drs. Mercader, Kay, and Sarvazyan have focused their research for many years on atrial fibrillation because effectively treating the condition is one of the biggest problems hospitals face worldwide.

"To date, monitoring tissue injury in real time remains a major limitation of current ablation approaches," Dr. Mercader says. "Detection of viability gaps between the lesions and closure of these gaps during a single radio-frequency ablation would increase both the safety and efficacy of therapy. We are very excited to develop products that will significantly enhance the lives of patients."

Home Park Advantage

The revitalized Barcroft Park in Arlington, Va., will host 28 GW baseball games this year, as Gregg Ritchie—an alumnus, GW Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, and former Major League Baseball player and coach—debuts as the program's head coach. Upgraded amenities at Barcroft include a new turf playing surface, expanded grandstand-style seating, covered dugouts, bullpens, batting cages, a press box, concession stands, an entry plaza, and more parking. A Barcroft Park grand opening event took place March 2.

For more information on the 2013 baseball season and schedule, visit

Nursing School to Admit Virginia Community College Alumni

Attendees at the signing in January included Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (center) along with President Steven Knapp and School of Nursing Dean Jean Johnson.

William Atkins

At a ceremonial signing announcement in January with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and President Knapp, the School of Nursing announced that it will guarantee admission to students who meet GW's academic requirements and have received an associate's degree from an accredited nursing program at a Virginia community college.

The agreement will allow these students to enroll in GW's nursing program while taking courses online and fulfilling their clinical requirements close to home. Students can earn a bachelor's or master's degree while remaining in place to serve their own rural communities, many of which are in locations that urgently need more primary care providers and where earning an advanced degree may be logistically difficult.

This system, which grows from a pilot program GW established last April with Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Va., could "become a model not only for the commonwealth but also nationally," Dr. Knapp said.

Gov. McDonnell said the program will help address the nursing shortage in the state, boost economic development, create more job opportunities for Virginians, and aid in his mission of helping residents achieve higher-level degrees.

George Welcomes…

"[The Dust Bowl was a] 10-year apocalypse, almost biblical in its proportions."

—Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, who gave audiences at Lisner Auditorium a preview of his new film, The Dust Bowl, a documentary chronicling one of American history's worst ecological disasters. Mr. Burns also participated in a question-and-answer session with Peter Miller, a senior editor at National Geographic, and Cal Crabill, a Dust Bowl survivor. Jim Axelrod, national correspondent for CBS News, led the discussion.

William Atkins

"I think that when Americans finally realize how bad things are, and what terrible straits our political system is in, I think there may be a resurgence of the kind of journalism that you and I grew up with."

—Ted Koppel, broadcast journalist and former anchor and managing editor of ABC News' Nightline, where he was the longest-serving news anchor in network history. Mr. Koppel visited The Kalb Report Nov. 19 for a discussion called "The Twilight of Network News: A Conversation With Ted Koppel on Democracy and the Press."

Jessica McConnell Burt

"As skillfully crafted as [HBO series The Wire] was, it really…only showed one side of the city. And the show reflects more of how Baltimore used to be in the '90s than how it is today—so much has changed."

—Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who spoke to GW School of Business students in December. Ms. Rawlings-Blake, now 42, was first elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1995—the youngest person ever elected to that body—and became mayor of Baltimore in 2010. Ms. Rawlings-Blake was the second speaker in the School of Business' "Conversations on Creative Leadership" series.

Jessica McConnell Burt


For more information on these and other events hosted at GW, go to


"There's no final destination in the journey to better homeland security. We just have to keep working on it."

—Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in the Jack Morton Auditorium at a November event sponsored by the Homeland Security Policy Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

William Atkins

"You are part of something that I believe will literally change the world."

—Lynn Rosenthal, White House adviser on violence against women, spoke at the launch of the GW Global Women's Institute on Nov. 27 in the Marvin Center.

Jessica McConnell Burt

"I don't think you can live life without failure. You get up and you try again. Stubbornness, that's a big message in this book."

—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, discussing her memoir, My Beloved World, at Lisner Auditorium in January. The event was presented by Politics and Prose bookstore.

William Atkins

"The massive floods, the massive droughts, the massive instability of the climate system—the world has already tipped into the world of extreme events. We're in a massive and accelerated hit for a worst- case scenario. This is a real problem."

—Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, who gave a December presentation on sustainable development. Dr. Sachs, who is also special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general and director of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, spoke as part of GW's Sustainable Development Forum.

Jessica McConnell Burt

Double Alumnus Named Medicine School Dean

Former student, professor, and department chair Jeffrey S. Akman is the new dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

William Atkins

Jeffrey S. Akman, MD '81, RESD '85, has been chosen to serve as the vice president for health affairs and the dean of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

From 2000 to 2010, Dr. Akman served as the chair of the GW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He led the financial turnaround and academic growth of the department, recruiting top faculty, and was central to the development of its nationally recognized medical student education and psychiatry residency programs.

Dr. Akman has been serving as the interim vice president for health affairs and dean since 2010, and has served as a liaison between the university and its clinical partners, including the GW Medical Faculty Associates, the George Washington University Hospital, and Children's National Medical Center.

Dr. Akman graduated from Duke University in 1977 and the GW medical degree program in 1981. In 1985, he completed the psychiatry residency program at GW, where he served as chief resident.

"As a double alumnus and member of the faculty for more than 25 years, I have a deep commitment to this institution and its multiple missions of healing, learning, discovery, and service," Dr. Akman says. 

The new dean is a nationally recognized expert on topics related to the neuropsychiatric and psychological aspects of HIV/AIDS. He currently serves on D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's Commission on HIV/AIDS and has served on several nonprofit boards of directors.

He will lead the academic and research mission of SMHS and will be named the Walter A. Bloedorn Chair of Administrative Medicine.

At a Glance

Happy Birthday, George

George Washington turned 281 on Feb. 22, and GW alumni all over the world celebrated with annual George's Birthday Bash parties. From Seattle to Boston to Seoul to Athens, alumni planned events for GW's namesake. This year's birthday bashes took place Feb. 21–23 in cities across the globe. To see photos of the parties, visit

Online MPH

Beginning in May, the School of Public Health and Health Services will offer its first fully web-based Master of Public Health degree—a program called MPH@GW. Class sessions will use live streaming video to allow students to interact with SPHHS faculty members and each other; students will meet weekly with classmates and professors at designated times in the virtual classroom for coursework discussions and study groups. Online students have the same admissions requirements as students on campus and will have full access to GW library resources and student and career services.

Kidney Stone Research

Emergency Medicine Professor Jeremy Brown received a four-year, $4.1 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to explore new ways to treat kidney stones. His project will study the effectiveness of a medication called tamsulosin, which he believes may help patients pass kidney stones faster and with fewer complications.

Study Abroad Leader

GW was among the top 25 universities with the most students studying abroad in 2010–11, according to a report released in November by the Institute of International Education. The 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, funded by the U.S. Department of State, reported that 1,802 GW students took advantage of international opportunities for credit during the 2010–11 academic year, studying in more than 70 countries. The university was one of only two in the D.C. area to make the list.

New Teachers for Autistic Students

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development has been awarded a $1.18 million grant for researchers to train teachers in instructing students with autism spectrum disorders and other neuro-developmental disorders. The five-year grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs, and the project will be led by Jay Shotel, chair of GSEHD's Department of Special Education and Disability Studies.

Healthy Kids

Anthropology Professor Robin Bernstein is examining the growth disparities in children in low-income countries with the help of a $2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant, which is part of the Achieving Healthy Growth program within the foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, will fund research into the hormonal responses that lead to below-average growth by tracking 200 newborn babies from rural areas of Gambia in West Africa.

"[Violence has] washed over Americans in their living rooms, on their flat screens and computers, and at the movies, [but] what are the connections, if any, between our violent culture and violent acts?"

—CNN host Anderson Cooper, who moderated a debate on gun control policy at the Jack Morton Auditorium. Panelists included Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech mass shooting; Veronique Pozner, a mother who lost her son, Noah, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings; Sandy Froman, an NRA board member; and Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia's police commissioner. The show aired in February on Anderson Cooper 360°.

Image courtesy CNN

Robot Navigator

William Atkins

"Kensen Shi, a high school senior from College Station, Texas, poses with the $100,000 scholarship check awarded to him as winner of the Siemens Competition. The contest, which held its national finals at GW in December, brings together high school students to present their research in science and technology. Mr. Shi developed a new algorithm that can compute safe paths for almost any type of robot. His research could help robots, such as devices for people with limited mobility, better navigate obstacles. Nineteen students competed in the national finals of the contest, which is sponsored by the Siemens Foundation and administered by the College Board.

Michael Chertoff to Lead New Cybersecurity Initiative

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff speaks at the Cybersecurity Initiative launch event in December at GW.

William Atkins

GW announced in December that it is launching an interdisciplinary Cyberscurity Initiative to provide research-based solutions and host in-depth discussions surrounding cybersecurity challenges. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will lead the effort.

Mr. Chertoff, who was head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, is currently chairman and co-founder of consulting firm The Chertoff Group and senior of counsel at law firm Covington & Burling LLP.

The university intends to use its location and connections to convene critical players in cybersecurity, from faculty members to policymakers and other experts in fields like business, law, international affairs, and engineering. The initiative also includes research institutes and centers, graduate education programs, and scholarship programs across campus.

The announcement featured a panel discussion on cybersecurity with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), incoming chair of the House Homeland Security Committee; GW Trustee J. Richard Knop, JD '69; Howard Schmidt, former White House cybersecurity coordinator; Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report and publisher of the New York Daily News; Michael Papay, vice president and chief information security officer at Northrop Grumman; and Kshemendra Paul, program manager at Information Sharing Environment. Frank Cilluffo, director of GW's Homeland Security Policy Institute, moderated the discussion.

Panelists agreed that the issue of cybersecurity demands bipartisan support.

"Every day we fail to act we put more Americans' lives at risk," Rep. McCaul said.

The panelists also touched on the importance of sharing information and acting on it, how to raise awareness among the broader public of the seriousness of the problem, state and local agencies' involvement, understanding the role of both offense and defense, and identifying the country's biggest vulnerabilities.

The Cybersecurity Initiative is one of several collaborative research institutes under way at GW; others include the recently launched Global Women's Institute and the newly created Computational Biology Institute. The university is also planning institutes on autism and urban food studies.