Steven Knapp

16th GW President Steven Knapp with his dog Ruffles

Steven Knapp became the 16th president of the George Washington University in August 2007. His priorities included enhancing the university’s partnerships with neighboring institutions, expanding the scope of its research, strengthening its worldwide community of alumni, enlarging its students’ opportunities for public service, and leading its transformation into a model of urban sustainability.

A specialist in Romanticism, literary theory, and the relation of literature to philosophy and religion, Dr. Knapp taught English literature at the University of California, Berkeley before serving as dean of arts and sciences and then provost of the Johns Hopkins University.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Modern Language Association.  The author of three books and numerous articles, he earned his doctorate and masters degrees from Cornell University and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University.

Since his inauguration in 2007, President Knapp was dedicated to building the stature of the George Washington University as an intellectual contributor to the solution of national and global problems. In keeping with the aspirations of the university’s namesake to educate citizen-leaders for future generations, Dr. Knapp generated new university and student opportunities, resources and recognition to prepare GW to lead the next century of advancement in education, science, technology, the arts, public service, and policy and law.

President Knapp presided over the building of a new Science and Engineering Hall for the Foggy Bottom Campus and additions to the 100-acre Virginia Science and Technology Campus, including a new School of Nursing and more than 71,000 square feet of new laboratory space for faculty in chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering and the health sciences.

To build on the university’s proximity to many of the world’s greatest institutions and organizations, Dr. Knapp advocated partnerships that bring greater knowledge and resources to George Washington, its students and the community. Collaborations included:

  • A unique affiliation that will bring one of the world’s foremost specialized museums, The Textile Museum, to a new George Washington University Museum, which also will house the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection and the Center for National Capital Area Studies,

  • An extension and expansion of a 100-year partnership with the Smithsonian Institution that gives students and faculty unprecedented access to the world’s largest museum complex, providing for a collaborative program in museum studies, graduate museum training programs, a joint fund for shared scholarly projects, and broader relationships between the Smithsonian and a growing number of departments within the university community,

  • An award-winning collaboration with the Greater Washington Urban League to support the League’s efforts to address health disparities, educate future leaders and create jobs,

  • A partnership with the groundbreaking political website and newspaper POLITICO to conduct the nationally recognized bipartisan George Washington University Battleground Poll, now renamed the POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll, and

  • A three-year collaboration with the Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, to offer modern art and art history courses, internships and post-doctoral fellowships.

Dr. Knapp is widely published while he served as the 16th president of the George Washington University. His books include Personification and the Sublime: Milton to Coleridge, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985; and Literary Interest: The Limits of Anti-Formalism, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.

As the first George Washington president to reside on campus, Dr. Knapp shares the storied F Street House as a focal point for university life. President and Ms. Knapp hosted hundreds of events, from student dinners to salons for discourse on issues of critical importance.


“More than two centuries ago, George Washington called for the establishment of a great university to forge citizen-leaders. Today, our university is the embodiment of that vision as we engage the world from this nation’s capital. We take seriously our responsibility to educate future leaders, not only for the nation but for the world.”

President Steven Knapp