Two years ago George Mason University (GMU) merged the department of Public and International Affairs on the main campus and the professional and graduate School of Public Policy on the Arlington campus. According to the school’s founding dean, Mark Rozell, the combination did not work immediately, “It took time for the two cultures and separate staffs to congeal into what we should be.” Rozell is confident, however, that the transition period is over and that the school has found its “common vision.”
According to its website, the Schar School of Policy and Government has 14 degree programs, 80 full-time faculty, 2,000 enrolled students and 13,000 alumni.
Previously called the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs, the school held a dedication on Monday, Oct 17 to recognize Dwight C. Schar, for whom the school has been renamed. Schar is the creator of NVR Inc., a homebuilding company, as well as a philanthropist. According to GMU’s president, Angel Cabrera, Schar has invested in the university for decades. Schar gave the school a $10 million gift to form the Schar School of Policy and Government.
Rozell plans to use this gift to promote the school. As he said, “We already had a building and faculty, we are not looking to sponsor construction but to become the most impactful school of this type.” The Schar School of Policy and Government recently established a partnership with the Washington Post to conduct regional and state polling, which Rozell credits to the school’s increasing visibility.
In addition to Cabrera and Rozell, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Rector Tom Davis and Representative Gerry Connolly spoke at the dedication. McAuliffe described Schar as a man who “never forgot his roots,” saying, “He, like I, had to start a business at a very young age because our folks couldn’t afford to send us to college.” McAuliffe praised Schar highly, thanking him and claiming, “Our commonwealth is strong today because of leaders like Dwight Schar.”
Kasich’s speech was rather abstract. After a couple of amusing stories, Kasich went on to describe his theory of life that looks at living above what he calls “the base level,” meaning the quotidian, compared to the “higher level” when we “live a life a little bit bigger than ourselves.” Kasich used Schar to illustrate his theory, saying, “Someday when Dwight departs the earth, as we all do, people are going to talk about this. People won’t talk much about his business career or how much money he made. They’re going to talk about his generosity. The moments when he lived a life bigger than himself.”
Kasich’s speech covered a lot of ground. In just over 20 minutes he told a story about meeting President Nixon in his freshman year of college, a recent trip to the Verizon store and an American-Syrian doctor. He criticized the recent scandals by EpiPen and Wells Fargo, the latter of which he recently banned from doing business with the state of Ohio for one year.
In concluding his speech, Kasich told two anecdotes to illustrate some general criticisms. The first of these stories explained that he is “fed up with this notion that in this country now we have to apologize for a belief in God.” The second was a story from his presidential campaign. While in a small town in Oregon, Kasich was asked what he, as President, would do about the town’s drug problem, to which Kasich responded by asking what the community was already doing about it, saying, “What are you waiting for? Our country works from the bottom up, not the top down.” This wide range of subjects seemed to relate back to the dedication ceremony in that future graduates will have to make ethical decisions which are complicated by a diverse moral landscape.
There was representation from both Democrats and Republicans, a dynamic that seemed intentional and was referred to a few times by several speakers. Representative Connolly and Governor McAuliffe are both Democrats, Kasich is a Republican, local legislators from both parties were present and Schar himself is the former finance chair for the Republican National Committee. Connolly talked about the decreasing trust in government and the need for future leaders, potentially graduates from the Schar School of Policy and Government, to solve partisan divides. Kasich asked the legislators in the audience, “Why do you play politics?” and, in reference to McAuliffe, “Why do you block this man’s agenda when it's something legitimate?”
Closing remarks by Dean Rozell brought the focus back to the school’s dedication and its future programs and events before those in attendance filed out for the reception outside.