Updated Jan. 2, 2012, 12:47 p.m.
Lloyd Hartman Elliott, the University’s 14th president who ushered in the first leg of ambitious campus growth and steered GW through the upheaval of Vietnam War protests, died Tuesday. He was 94 years old.
Elliott died from a brain hemorrhage after falling twice, a spokeswoman said. University President Steven Knapp, GW’s 16th president, announced Elliott’s death in a University-wide email Tuesday night.
Known for his calm demeanor and fundraising talents, Elliott led GW from 1965 to 1988, building up the University’s endowment from a paltry $8 million to $200 million.
With improved finances, the World War II veteran oversaw the construction of Gelman Library, Marvin Center, Academic Center and Smith Center, transforming the Foggy Bottom Campus as it began a transition from a commuter school to a major research institution.
The Elliott School of International Affairs, which separated from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences during his presidency, was named in his honor in 1988.
Over the more than two decades of his presidency, GW’s undergraduate operation expanded as Elliott lured more top faculty and tried to keep tuition down.
“Lloyd Elliott’s visionary leadership set the George Washington University on a course to become the world-class institution of higher learning it is today,” Knapp said in a statement.
But the early years of Elliott’s presidency were marked by tumult, first from his own faculty and then from student protests over the Vietnam War. The appointment of Elliott, who had come to GW after leading University of Maine, was initially opposed by a number of professors.
In the late 1960s, college students from across the country descended on GW, making the campus the “Holiday Inn of the Revolution,” because of its District location. Elliott tried to stave off the flood of protesters by holding firm on the University’s policy against dorm visitors in 1969.
The University closed in 1970 for the first time since the Civil War in the wake of the Kent State shooting that shook the nation. Elliott remained defiant in 1971 when more protests broke out during what students called the “strike semester,” declaring, “We can’t let the bastards win.”
Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who succeeded Elliott, said the Vietnam protests were the biggest challenge of Elliott’s presidency.
“He was the right man for his time,” Trachtenberg said, recalling the hoards of students from colleges nationwide who would camp out at night in the Marvin Center and march to the White House the next morning to picket.
“You can imagine this was very daunting for the University,” he added. “Lloyd Elliott handled those pressures in an extraordinary way that I think really tested his mettle. He pulled the University through what could have been a very difficult time and brought it out safe on the other end.”
Elliott also took over GW as it shook off remnants of racial tensions. The University, which was the last to desegregate in D.C., only began admitting black students 11 years before Elliott took office.
GW’s football team, marred by poor attendance, also disbanded under Elliott. The Board of Trustees voted to end the program in 1967.
Trachtenberg said Elliott, who lived in an assisted living facility in D.C., would still visit campus after his presidency. He was a dedicated handball player, and would take up games in the Lerner Health and Wellness Center to stay fit.
Elliott is survived by his children Patricia and Gene. His wife Betty died in 2009 at age 91.
The University will announce plans later for memorial events dedicated to Elliott.