Chestertown, MD — On December 14 an unprecedented national event will take place. Across the country, bells will toll and flags will fly at half-staff in observance of the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s death. The first president’s educational namesake, Washington College, and the community that surrounds the small liberal arts and sciences college will hold a spirited commemoration of Washington’s death on the College’s Chestertown, Md., campus. Beginning at noon, the observance includes a 21-gun salute and musical tributes composed in honor of Washington, a wreath-laying with color guard accompaniment from the Maryland Air National Guard, and a solemn tolling of bells on campus at 1 p.m.
The ceremony at Washington College brings to an end an 18-month celebration of Washington’s life that brought to campus former U.S. president George Bush, the late John F. Kennedy Jr., presidential scholars Doris Kearns Goodwin and Richard Norton Smith, and Smithsonian curator Richard G. Doty.
College President John S. Toll says, "In his commitment to the ideals of scholarship, character, service, and leadership, George Washington has served as a historic role model for Washington College students."
Although most Americans believe they know everything there is to know about Washington, few realize that Washington College was founded in 1782 with his gift of 50 guineas and his permission in writing to use his name, the only school to earn that distinction. Washington served on the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors for five years and received an honorary degree from the College in 1789. Founded as the first college in the new nation, Washington College ranks among the country’s top 150 selective liberal arts colleges.
"With his gift of 50 guineas Washington invested in the future of a young democracy, knowing the new nation would require an educated citizenry in order to succeed," said President Toll.
The Washington Scholars program, a merit scholarship program that grants recipients $40,000 over four years at the College, was founded to carry on that vision. The program is open to members of the National Honor Society and the Cum Laude Society; 52 percent of the College’s 1,150 students were NHS members in high school.
Seventy-three percent of a recent graduating class intended to earn advanced degrees, while 35 percent were enrolled in Ph.D. or master’s degree programs to begin in the fall after their graduation.