The George Washington University Bicentennial

My masters and doctorate alma mater, George Washington University (GWU), turned two hundred years old in February 2021. Its history actually dates back to George Washington himself, who directed in his will, before his death in 1799, that fifty shares in the Potomac Company, an organization devoted to improving navigation on the Potomac River, be used to support a university in the District of Columbia. But it wasn’t until more than twenty years later, on February 9, 1821, that President James Monroe signed the Act of Congress that created that university. At first called the Columbian College, Congress changed the name to Columbian University in 1873. Then, in 1904, Congress approved a name change to the George Washington University.

I began my graduate work at GWU at the end of the 1960s amidst frequent missions to Vietnam. My undergraduate grades from the 1950s at the University of California, Berkeley, were poor enough that GWU admitted me provisionally. I had lived for years in the belief, instilled in me by my high school advisors, that I wasn’t really bright enough to go to college, so I didn’t try to excel. But when I got into graduate school, I was determined to do well. To my surprise, I found the coursework likeable and not very difficult. I got straight As all the way through and graduated from the doctoral program with honors.

My doctoral dissertation, published in 1983, is titled The Reflexive Mind: Thinking about Thinking in Government. The book dwells on how people think and why they choose (for they do indeed choose) the modes of thought they favor. Now almost forty years later, the dissertation is ensconced among the learned documents of GWU and is part of GWU’s two-hundred-year history.

I wasn’t able to complete my doctoral studies until 1983 because I was constantly being sent abroad on intelligence missions and working ten-hour days and weekends while I was in the states. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, those who suffered during those years from my dedication to my country and my determination to get an advanced degree were my four children who saw a lot less of me than they had every right to expect.

So here I am today, authorized to call myself Dr. Glenn, honored with a medal for the lives I saved during the fall of Saigon, the author of six books (besides my dissertation) and seventeen short stories, and blessed with four wonderful adult children. As my alma mater celebrates its 200th birthday, I bow in respect and gratitude for my tiny part in its glorious history.

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