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A Capitol Education: Georgetown University

Feb 02, 2011

It's National Catholic Schools Week, and today we're continuing our celebration of America's great Catholic colleges with a profile of Georgetown University. Learn how this Jesuit school has become one of the nation's leading universities.

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Georgetown University

A Private University with National Roots

Georgetown is the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in the U.S. It was founded in 1789, the same year that America's first presidential and House of Representatives elections were held. Classes officially started in 1792, and the school awarded its first two bachelor's degrees in 1817. The Georgetown School of Medicine and Law School were established in 1851 and 1870, respectively. To this day, Georgetown Law is one of the premier legal institutions in the country.

Georgetown's history is intricately intertwined with that of the Civil War. The school's student body dropped dramatically, nearly closing the institution, and after the Second Battle of Bull Run multiple campus buildings were converted into a hospital. When the war finally ended, students chose the colors blue (Union) and gray (Confederate) to celebrate, which remain the university's official colors.

Georgetown also demonstrated an early commitment to diversity. Between 1873 and 1882, the university president was Patrick F. Healy, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. or head a major U.S. college. Healy transformed the university's core curriculum, placing a new emphasis on history and the natural sciences.

Georgetown's fortunes have closely followed the ups and downs in American history. The university saw a major increase in enrollment during the 'roaring 20s' - and a significant drop during the Great Depression. Nevertheless, Georgetown's graduate school was formally organized during this period, which added programs in government, economics, math, history, economics and natural sciences.

Boom times returned after World War II, and the School of Business was established. The university was not immune to the social changes sweeping the country during the 1960s and 1970s - women were accepted into Georgetown for the first time in 1969. By 2001, women even made up almost 40% of the faculty.

Today, Georgetown's academics are internationally renowned. The school consistently ranks among the top 25 universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. U.S. News also ranks its law school in the top 15 in the nation, and The Financial Times has ranked its full-time MBA program 38th in the world.

president clinton

Amazing Alumni

A degree from Georgetown University is as prestigious as an Ivy League degree, a fact borne out by the countless successful individuals to emerge from the school.

Because Georgetown University is situated in Washington D.C., our nation's capitol, the institution boasts a long list of distinguished political alumni, including:

  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton
  • Former Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
  • Jose Manuel Barroso, current President of the European Commission
  • Antonin Scalia, Associate Supreme Court Justice
  • Robert Gates, current U.S. Secretary of Defense
  • George Tenet, former director of the CIA
  • Former El Salvador President Alfredo Cristiani
  • James L. Jones, current U.S. National Security Advisor

There are even a couple of royal graduates from Georgetown, including King Abdullah II of Jordan and Felipe de Borbon, the Crown Prince of Spain.

But Georgetown doesn't just produce politicians, judges and princes. There are also many famous athletes, authors, artists and performers among its alumni, including:

  • Pearl Bailey, a mid-20th century African American actress and singer
  • Dikembe Mutombo, eight-time NBA All-Star
  • William Corcoran, founder of Washington's first art museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art
  • William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist

The list doesn't stop there. In addition to over a hundred other graduates with distinguished careers in politics, the law and entertainment, Georgetown boasts successful alumni in science, medicine, education, public policy, business, religion and more.

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