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By Jamie L. Freedman

Julie Woodford

The National Mall provided a magnificent backdrop for Commencement 2006 on May 21. More than 25,000 GW graduates, faculty and staff members, family members, and friends gathered on the historic Mall between 4th and 7th Streets, NW, for the joyous celebration.

Former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush delivered a joint keynote address and received honorary Doctor of Public Service degrees.

“Any definition of a successful life must include service to others,” George Bush told the nearly 4,500 graduates. Barbara Bush stressed the importance of literacy, saying, “Knowing how to read and write and comprehend is crucial to keeping our young people off the streets, out of jail, and in school.”

At the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences ceremony held in the Charles E. Smith Athletic Center May 20, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg confers upon Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Julie Woodford

The Bushes treated the audience to a “CliffsNotes version” of their favorite commencement addresses and engaged in playful banter, with the former president telling his wife that she looked “a little like George Washington.”

Sumner Redstone, chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp.; baseball legend Frank Robinson, manager of the Washington Nationals; and Dan Glickman, JD ’69, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America also received honorary degrees. Redstone, grandfather of Brandon Korff, BA ’06, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Arts degree on the Mall, while Robinson received his honorary Doctor of Public Service degree at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences celebration on May 20 at the Charles E. Smith Athletic Center. Glickman was awarded his honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the Law School’s diploma ceremony, also in the Smith Center, immediately following commencement.

Julie Woodford

Other highlights of the day included the presentation of the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prizes to three outstanding faculty members: Ines Azar, professor of Spanish, for teaching; Martha Finnemore, professor of political science and international affairs, for scholarship; and Gary Simon, professor of medicine, for University service.

Six extraordinary alumni were recognized at commencement for receiving GW’s 70th annual Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award: Vice Adm. Thad Allen, MPA ’86, who assumed duties as commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard in May; Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), BBA ’66; Jordan M. Hadelman, MA ’78, chairman and chief executive officer of Witt/Kieffer, Ford, Hadelman & Lloyd, a top executive search firm; Barbara Joan Pariente, JD ’73, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court; Harold C. Pillsbury III, BA ’70, MD ’72, a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine; and Frederick (Fritz) J. Scheuren, MA ’71, PhD ’72, vice president of statistics at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and president of the American Statistics Association. The award is the highest form of recognition given by the University to alumni who have made a lasting impact on society.

Dan Glickman, JD ’69, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, received an honorary degree and spoke at the Law School’s diploma ceremony in the Charles E. Smith Athletic Center.

Abdul El-Tayef/WPPI

GW Awards, which recognize exceptional members of the University community, were presented to Donald R. Lehman, PhD ’70, executive vice president for academic affairs and George Gamow Professor of Theoretical Physics; Michael Akin, BA ’03, founding director of the Office of the District of Columbia and Foggy Bottom/West End Affairs; and the late Paul E. Spiegler, MA ’59, former associate professorial lecturer in the department of biological sciences, who taught at GW for nearly 50 years.

Commencement 2006 marked the 60th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s 1946 GW Commencement address to his daughter Margaret’s graduating class. Other presidential speakers over the years include President John F. Kennedy, who spoke at GW’s commencement in 1961, and President Calvin Coolidge, who addressed graduates of GW Law School in 1929.

Individual school ceremonies, interfaith baccalaureate, and the annual Monumental Celebration (featuring jazz music and dancing in Union Station) combined with the festivities on the Mall to make an unforgettable commencement weekend for the Class of 2006 and the GW community.

Viacom and CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone received an honorary degree and celebrated with grandson Brandon Korff, BA ’06.

Thomas Kohout