Georgetown officially launched the McCourt School of Public Policy this week and honored Frank McCourt Jr. (CAS ’75) for his record-breaking $100 million gift.
“[The school is] everything about Georgetown,” McCourt, whose son, father and two brothers attended the university, told The Hoya. “I grew up living and breathing public policy at the dinner table.”
To celebrate, the university sponsored several events on campus throughout the week, including a campus-wide barbecue, reception and academic ceremony Tuesday and a panel on public policy and dinner Wednesday. The Office of Advancement purchased advertisements in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Financial Times and Politico.
“They were a way to both thank Mr. McCourt and continue to educate the policy community about the founding of the McCourt School,” university spokeswoman Stacy Kerr, who declined to disclose the cost of the advertisements, wrote in an email.
The Tuesday ceremony in Dahlgren Quad featured speeches by McCourt, University President John J. DeGioia, Dean of the College Chester Gillis, Provost Robert Groves and McCourt School Dean Edward Montgomery.
“My father arrived at Georgetown in 1935 and lived right up there,” McCourt said during his speech, pointing to Healy Hall. “That marked the beginning of an 80-year love affair between the McCourt family and Georgetown University.”
The university officials praised McCourt for his generous donation and emphasized that the new school embodies the core of a Georgetown education: genuine dialogue, engagement and Jesuit values.
“This pattern of engagement, this commitment to genuine dialogue, to the idea that we arrive closer to the truth when we pursue the best in one another has never been more needed,” DeGioia said. “This is a moment that demands the very best of us — the generosity that we honor today places a new burden of responsibility on the university.”
Groves emphasized the importance of the McCourt School as the first major public policy institute to be formed after the multimedia and Internet data revolution.
“Government programs now run on vast data systems,” Groves said. “The evolution of the Internet is generating real time data on human behavior at an unprecedented rate.”
McCourt added that the new school would play a particularly vital role during a precarious time for the nation’s government, with the most polarized Congress in recent memory.
“I’m sure the irony is not lost to anyone here that our government is shut down on the day this school is being established,” McCourt said.
Following Tuesday’s official kickoff, the university convened a panel in Riggs Library on Wednesday that featured faculty members of the new school, including Montgomery, government professor and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Vice-Provost for Faculty Adriana Kugler and former Georgetown Public Policy Institute professor James Habyarimana. During the panel, the professors highlighted issues that would be studied at the new school, particularly immigration, health reform, education reform and global poverty, as well as the importance of inter-disciplinary cooperation.
The university closed its celebratory exercises with a reception and dinner on Copley Lawn on Wednesday that featured speeches from PBS NewsHour Co-Anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff, Sen. Patrick Leahy (LAW ’64) (D-Vt.), Rep. John Dingell (C ’49, LAW ’52) (D-Mich.), Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Board of Directors Chairman Paul Tagliabue (CAS ’62), in addition to McCourt and DeGioia. Several noteworthy guests were also in attendance, including House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former NBA player Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92). A pre-recorded video message from former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) played during the dinner.
“You have given a gift not just to Georgetown,” Leahy said. “You have given a gift to the future.”
Markey agreed and expressed high hopes for the school’s future, praising McCourt’s foresight and vision.
“This was a contemplative in the middle of the action, and this school that will bear his name is going to put students in the middle of the action in the most powerful city in the world,” Markey said.
Several of the Congress members in attendance stressed the relevance of the school, particularly in light of the current federal government shutdown.
“Let us pray that some members of Congress will come and study here,” Leahy said jokingly.
Dingell, the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, who attended Georgetown when there were only 100 students and tuition was $600 a semester, agreed.
“All you have to do is to look and see the unfortunate low charades that are going on in the House of Representatives now to appreciate how desperately the values that are taught here at Georgetown are needed in our government,” Dingell said.
McCourt expressed hope that the new school would live up to the motto currently inscribed in Gaston Hall: “For the greater glory of God and the betterment of mankind.”
“This is a time for optimism,” McCourt said. “A new school for the common good has been born.”
DeGioia expressed gratitude and encouraged the university to embrace the responsibility that comes along with McCourt’s gift.
“This trust Frank has placed in us provides us a new opportunity to do our very best work and bring out the very best in everyone around us,” DeGioia said. “We will do our best to prove ourselves worthy of this trust.”