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USC partners with Mount Vernon on George Washington project

Megan Gouldingby Megan Goulding
A rendering of The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, slated to open in September.
Photo: A rendering of The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, slated to open in September.

The USC Price School of Public Policy has announced a new partnership with the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, a new facility under development just outside the main entrance to Washington’s Virginia estate.

Thanks to the support of Maribeth Borthwick ’73 and William Borthwick to the Campaign for the University of Southern California, USC Price and the library have jointly established the Partnership for the Study of George Washington at USC and Mount Vernon. The Borthwicks’ campaign gift also includes support of the Second Year Inquiry Program at the USC Dornsife College for Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“We are tremendously excited to partner with Mount Vernon to develop this unique leadership program at its new library,” said Jack H. Knott, dean of USC Price. “The legacy of George Washington will serve as a powerful inspiration to students at USC Price who, like Washington himself, seek to positively impact policy and government for the common good of all citizens.”

The new program will provide students and faculty at USC Price with opportunities to better understand Washington’s impact on the fields of governance, planning, public policy and leadership. Capitalizing on the resources of the library, this program will facilitate unique research and programming opportunities at USC and Mount Vernon. David Sloane, a USC Price professor and director of undergraduate programs, will direct the program elements at USC.

Slated to open in September, the 45,000-square-foot library will serve as a place to safeguard original Washington papers and volumes, as well as a center for scholarly research, educational outreach and leadership training programs. The latest initiative of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the library is being built solely through the generosity of private donors. Borthwick serves as the association’s vice regent, or board member, representing the state of California.

“I am thrilled to support the establishment of the Partnership for the Study of George Washington at USC and Mount Vernon,” Borthwick said. “As an alumna of USC and a California resident, I know how important it is to bring a little of Mount Vernon and George Washington to California. The university is ideally suited to partner with the library to honor the legacy of Washington and imbue the next generation of our nation’s leaders with the exemplary standards of civic responsibility and leadership that our founding father possessed.”

USC Price was selected from among dozens of West Coast universities, both for its academic reputation and national ranking, as well as its commitment to the values that George Washington represented.

“USC Price is truly an ideal partner for us,” said Stewart McLaurin, vice president of the library. “There are tremendous parallels between the professional accomplishments of George Washington and the academic disciplines at USC Price. George Washington was a planner, surveyor, military leader and, of course, one of our nation’s finest chief executives — all noble academic and professional fields that students pursue at the school.”

The first component of the new partnership will be the Borthwick Lecture Series on George Washington, an annual bicoastal lecture program devoted to the life and legacy of Washington. The program will convene students, scholars, historians and the general public for an ongoing exploration of Washington’s personal and professional accomplishments. The first lecture, titled “Washington’s Leadership and His Vision of the American West,” will take place on Oct. 17 at Mount Vernon.

The event will feature USC University Professor Kevin Starr, who will discuss Washington’s interest in frontier expansion and how it shaped the nation’s approach to the American West.

Starr is one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on California history and American culture. He has authored 15 books on California and was named State Librarian Emeritus by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after serving as California State Librarian from 1994 to 2004.

In the coming years, USC Price will seek additional funds to expand the partnership. Additional program elements will include undergraduate and graduate student educational opportunities at Mount Vernon that will allow students to pursue research projects that explore aspects of Washington’s leadership and presidential legacy, as well as faculty research opportunities at the library.

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