This report was written by Hatchet staff writer Jeff Richards
The University again honored newly inaugurated Mayor Vincent Gray at an on-campus breakfast Thursday morning, where the mayor lauded the changes GW has undergone since his years on campus.
Gray described for GW administrators, students and local community members his time at the University in the early 1960s and how it shaped his life during the small breakfast.
He talked about being the first African-American student to rush GW’s fraternities when most of the Greek life organizations on campus were still segregated.
“This is not the George Washington University that I came to as a freshman,” Gray said. “This was a very different place at the time.”
Gray’s parents did not graduate from high school or attend a university, and his father worked two jobs.
“They wanted their kids to do better,” Gray said. “They saw me coming to George Washington University and getting a degree from this university as doing better.”
Gray’s view of GW wasn’t always positive, as he noted the difficult social experiences he had his freshman year.
“I realized as I thought about it,” he said, “if I walk away from this experience, I will probably walk away from every difficult experience in my life thereafter, and I decided to stay.”
Gray talked about his fraternity of Tau Epsilon Phi as being a “great group of people,” and he acknowledged the brothers that were in the audience. By his junior year, Gray had become the chancellor of TEP.
“Life-long relationships evolved from that experience,” Gray said.
Before Gray spoke, D.C. Council Member Jack Evans of Ward 2 talked about the projects that he and Gray worked on together throughout their 20-year friendship.
Evans and Gray worked together to find acceptable housing for the homeless of D.C. in the early 1990s.
“I think that first interaction I had with Vince really said to me what a decent and humane person he was, and someone who could really get things done,” Evans said.
Both President Steven Knapp and President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg were in attendance.
“Mayor Gray, it was very much our honor to have that opportunity to honor you, both your extraordinary public achievements and belatedly for your role as civil rights pioneer within the University,” Knapp said during the ceremony
Gray also praised Trachtenberg – who served on Gray’s transition team – and GW for reaching out to local high schools and providing them with resources. GW has made scholarships available to students throughout the D.C. area and allows students at a high school on G Street, the School Without Walls, to take classes at GW.
“It certainly is heartwarming to me to see this being done by the University, which I graduated from,” Gray said.
Gray was also recognized earlier this month by the University when GW brought members of his undergraduate intramural basketball team in the Smith Center during a men’s basketball game Jan. 5.