Incoming Mason president ready to take university to new heights

Students, faculty and staff offered new George Mason University President Gregory Washington a standing ovation when he stepped up to the microphone Thursday afternoon to make his first remarks to a Mason audience.

Humbled to see them on their feet, Washington spoke of elevation of another sort.

“Many of you may not realize how unlikely the trajectory and the rise of this institution is,” he told a crowd of nearly 400 packed into Center for the Arts Lobby. “To start off as a two-year commuter program and then to advance to a full-fledged comprehensive Research 1 institution is extremely unlikely. And to do it in a span of less than 50 years is unprecedented.”

Later, he added, “You guys have really propelled this rocket ship into orbit. I’m that little capsule that’s sitting on the top just hoping to take it to the next space.” Hear more.

That is the charge from the Mason’s Board of Visitors, which on Monday announced Washington as Mason’s choice to lead the largest and most diverse public research university in Virginia. The announcement of Mason’s eighth president capped an eight-month comprehensive national search that entailed campus listening sessions, a 19-member search committee with representatives from across the community, and then a final four list of candidates vetted over the weekend.

Washington, who will begin his new post July 1, is the dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at University of California, Irvine. The New York native attended high school in North Carolina and earned three degrees, including his doctorate, at North Carolina State as a first-generation college student. “The story of Mason is really my story,” said Washington, Mason’s first African American president.

>>Read more about Washington's introduction here.

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