In 1996, President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg presented a gift to The George Washington University's Class of 2000—a bronze statue of a hippopotamus. Placed at the center of the campus, at H and 21st streets, the hippo has become a popular, though unofficial, GW mascot.
The legend surrounding the GW Hippo appears on the statue's plaque:
GW's River Horse
Legend has it that the Potomac was once home to these wondrous beasts. George and Martha Washington are even said to have watched them cavort in the river shallows from the porch of their beloved Mount Vernon on summer evenings.
Credited with enhancing the fertility of the plantation, the Washingtons believed the hippopotamuses brought them good luck, and children on the estate often attempted to lure the creatures close enough to the shore to touch a nose for good luck.
So, too, many generations of students of The George Washington University.
Art for wisdom,
Science for joy,
Politics for beauty,
And a Hippo for hope.
How many hippos do you know with their own Web site?
by Ogden Nash
Behold the hippopotamus!
We laugh at how he looks to us,
And yet in moments dank and grim
I wonder how we look to him.
Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus!
We really look all right to us.
As you no doubt delight the eye
Of other hippopotami.
"The Hippopotamus" by Ogden Nash in Latin
Ecce hippopotamus, sis!
Ridemus quomodo videatur nobis,
Tempore tamen miserabili
Miror quomodo videamur ei.
Pacem, pacem, hippopotame!
Videmur grati nobis vere,
Es dulcis sine dubio
Aliorum hipporum oculo.
Original English version copyright © 1935 by Ogden Nash;
Latin translation copyright © 1973 by James C. Gleeson and Brian N. Meyer.
By permission of Little, Brown and Company, Inc.