Gaston Hall: Visitors and Events

Online Exhibitions

The first event held in Gaston Hall was Georgetown's 1879 commencement ceremony; President Rutherford B. Hayes was among the attendees. Since then, the space has hosted many events and visitors, both high profile and more mundane, and this exhibition highlights just a few of these. The exhibition’s chronological arrangement, which juxtaposes a photograph of a 1940s football rally with a ticket for a 1948 lecture by British novelist Evelyn Waugh, an advertisement for a 1974 Bruce Springsteen concert with an invitation to the first anniversary performance of the Georgetown University Gospel Choir, and a photograph of ANC President Oliver Tambo speaking in1987 with a schedule for New Student Orientation, emphasizes the eclecticism of Gaston Hall speakers, performances, and events.

Printed notice

Notice of the Tenth Annual Reunion, April 15, 1890

Printed invitation

Invitation to commencement, June 24, 1890

Commencements were traditionally held in Gaston Hall until World War I, when the main ceremony moved to Healy lawn.  However, Gaston was used as a rain site and continued to host other commencement-related events.

Printed program

Program for concert by the Washington Musical Club, April 26, 1892

Among the musicians listed are Paul Miersch, a German-born composer, who came to the U.S. in 1892 and was solo cellist with the New York Symphony Orchestra between 1893 and 1898; and Herndon Morsell, who had previously toured with John Philip Sousa as a guest artist with the Marine Band and had sung with the Boston Opera Company.

Black and white photograph

Gaston Hall as decorated for Francesco Cardinal Satolli’s farewell reception, April 30, 1896

After speeches by University officials, there was a musical performance by members of  the University Glee and Banjo Clubs. Cardinal Satolli, the first Apostolic Delegate to the United States, was returning to Rome after his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation of Studies and Archpriest of the Lateran Basilica.

Printed program

Black and white photograph

Program for the play "The Upstart," put on in Gaston Hall by members of the Preparatory Division, November 13, 1896. Photograph of Prep student John Barrymore, who acted in it.

Included in the program’s cast list is the name Jack Barrymore.  John “Jack” Barrymore was enrolled at Georgetown College from 1895 to 1898. A member of a famous acting family, he went on to have a successful stage and screen career; actress and producer Drew Barrymore is his granddaughter.

Printed concert poster

Poster for concert by the Anthracite Glee Club and the Georgetown University Banjo and Mandolin Clubs, March 5, 1897

The Anthracite Glee Club of Scranton, Pennsylvania had come to D.C. to take part in celebrations surrounding the first inauguration of President William McKinley on March 4, 1897.

Newspaper clipping

Account of lecture by the Chief of the Weather Bureau on April 2, 1897. Georgetown College Journal, April 1897

Professor Willis Moore served as chief of the Weather Bureau from 1895 to 1913.

Concert tickets

Tickets for Glee, Banjo and Mandolin Clubs concert, February 5, 1900

Note that the tickets are color-coded by price.

Printed program

Printed concert program

Program for a United States Marine Band concert to mark the formal opening of Gaston Hall, November 4, 1901

Although Gaston Hall had been in use for over twenty years, the University held a formal opening event in 1901 to celebrate the decorative finishings of Brother Francis Schroen, S.J.  He created the murals, the central focus of the space, as well as other details such as the crests of other Jesuit schools which ring the Hall.

Printed program

Program for Mardi Gras Entertainment put on by the Louisiana Club, February 11, 1902

The first printed reference to Mardi Gras celebrations on campus is found in the March 1874 issue of the Georgetown College Journal (then the student newspaper). However, it is probable that the southern students on campus celebrated the occasion even before that date.

Printed lecture schedule

Notice of three “Illustrated Lectures," March 1902

Printed ticket

Ticket for Georgetown-Wisconsin debate, April 30, 1903

Three debaters from the Georgetown University Law School competed against three from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Their debate topic was whether compulsory arbitration between capital and labor was expedient. Georgetown, which argued for the affirmative, lost the competition.

Commencement program

Program for the “Sixtieth Commencement” of the Georgetown University School of Medicine and Dental Department, June 11, 1909

The determination that the 1909 Medical School commencement was its “sixtieth” is understandable but incorrect. Four local doctors approached the Georgetown University President in 1849 proposing that a medical school be set up under the auspices of the University. However, the Georgetown University Medical School did not graduate any students until 1852.

Printed ticket

Ticket for Georgetown-Johns Hopkins University Debate, February 26, 1916

The Georgetown debaters successfully argued in favor of the proposition that the President of the United States should be elected for a single term of six years.

Printed article

Page one of a transcription of the Academic Exercises in Gaston Hall to celebrate the opening of the School of Foreign Service, November 25, 1919. From the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Yearbook, February 1919-February 1920.

The School celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 2019-2020 academic year. An online exhibition on its history can be viewed here.

Printed ticket

Tickets for performance of "Twelfth Night" put on by members of the Freshman Class, May 26, 1921

Printed ticket

Ticket for Georgetown-Yale debate, March 22, 1922

The topic was whether the United States, in joint action with England, France and Japan, should recognize the Soviet Government of Russia. Georgetown argued the negative position and won. The United States government agreed with this stance; it was not until November 16, 1933, that President Franklin Roosevelt ended almost 16 years of American non-recognition of the Soviet Union.

Black and white photograph

Inauguration of the Pan American Students Association, January 28, 1923

Established in the Foreign Service School, the Pan American Students Association served as a means for encouraging intellectual interaction among students from the Americas. It was inaugurated with a ceremony attended by ambassadors from many Latin American countries. 

Printed program

Program for Georgetown Monday Lectures, May 1922

These lectures were given throughout 1922 by Georgetown faculty and administrators on a variety of topics. Later lectures included Dreams, Dreaming, and Dreamers and Our Trees in Autumn and Spring. The lectures were open to the public and were advertised in The Washington Post.

Newspaper article

“Polish Prelate Visits College.” The Hoya, December 4, 1925

Archbishop Jan Cieplak spoke in Gaston Hall on November 15, 1925, three months before his death. In the spring of 1923, he had been sentenced to death at a show trial in Moscow. Released after international pressure in 1924, he traveled to Rome and then to the U.S.

Printed invitation for Founders Day, 1930

Printed invitation for Founders Day, 1931

Invitations to Founders Day celebrations, March 25, 1930 and March 25, 1931

Georgetown began celebrating Founders Day on March 25 during the presidency of Coleman Nevils, S.J. (1928-1935). The first settlers who came to Maryland from England on the ships the Ark and the Dove, landed on St. Clements Island on March 25, 1634; you can see that year printed on the invitations. Nevils was given to suggesting, via elaborate and convoluted reasoning, that Georgetown could trace its origins to the earliest days of Maryland and to Jesuits who travelled there with aspirations of starting a college. This line of thinking allowed him to argue that Georgetown pre-dated even Harvard and thus was the oldest college in the country, not simply the oldest Catholic college.

Founders Day was celebrated on campus until 1968.

Printed ticket

Ticket to a series of lectures by Edmund A. Walsh, S.J. on “Washington and Lenin: A Study in Comparative Achievements,” spring 1932

Father Walsh, for whom the Georgetown School of Foreign Service is named, began an annual series of lectures on aspects of the Soviet Union in 1925. 1932 was the bicentennial of George Washington's birth. University President Coleman Nevils, S.J. introduced the first of that year’s lectures on February 19th by saying, according to coverage in The Hoya, that Georgetown University could do no better than present a study of George Washignton, and that the contrasts between the two revolutionaries, Washington and Lenin, would be especially effective as white appears the more snowy when compared with black.

Black and white photograph

Convocation for Cardinal Pacelli, October 22, 1936

In 1936, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the Papal Secretary of State, visited the U.S. and was awarded an honorary degree by Georgetown. The audience for the ceremony was  limited to the senior class. After the degree had been conferred, the class honored the Cardinal with a variation of the Georgetown cheer normally delivered at sporting events as: Hoya, Hoya, Saxa! Hoya, Hoya, Georgetown! -Team, Team, Team! John G. Bowen (LL.B. 1921, LL.M. 1922, Ph.D. 1933), describes the Cardinal’s reaction in the 1966 compilation, “On the Hilltop: Reflections and Reminiscences on their Campus Years by Georgetown Alumni”: The Cardinal had just come from Paris and seen the turbulence of shouting students in the area of the Sorbonne . . . At the instant the future pope finished his speech, up rose the President of the Yard [the College’s student government]. Waving his fist high, he shouted, “OK fellows. Hit it!” Every man jumped to his feet . . . the Cardinal’s eyes bugged out as he sat terrified. The whole class thundered: “Hoya, Hoya, Saxa! Hoya, Hoya Georgetown! Hoya Pacelli, Pacelli, Pacelli!” and broke into vigorous applause. The Cardinal smiled. Afterward in the President’s office he said: “I think I will start something new. This will be the cheer of the College of Cardinals.”

Cardinal Pacelli was elected to the Papacy in 1939 and assumed the name Pius XII.

Printed handbill

Printed ticket

Handbill for Mask and Bauble performance of “In the Fool’s Bauble," February 10, 11 and 12, 1938; and ticket for Three One Act Plays for the benefit of the Arthur Behrens Memorial Fund, November 8, 1939

Arthur Behrens, the Director of the Mask and Bauble Club, died in July 1939.

Printed yearbook page

Georgetown University Band pictured during their annual concert in Gaston Hall in 1938. Ye Domesday Booke, 1938

Black and white photograph

Father Edmund A. Walsh, S.J. with students, 1944. From the Georgetown College Journal, January 1944

This image may be unique among the photographs in the University Archives collection in that it shows Gaston Hall being used as a classroom. The students pictured are wearing military uniforms because they are part of the Army Specialized Training Program. Under this program, the War Department designated a select number of universities around the country to provide training to both junior officers and soldiers in fields such as foreign languages and regional studies, engineering, and medicine.

Newspaper clipping

“Fordham HAD a Ram.” The Hoya, October 11, 1946

Kidnapping the mascot of opposing football teams was not uncommon in the 1940s. In October 1946, it was the Fordham mascot that was kidnapped and put on display before the student body at a rally in Gaston Hall before its return to Fordham.

Black and white photograph

Football rally, 1940s

This photograph provides a view from the Gaston Hall stage, a somewhat unique perspective among the photographs of the Hall in the University Archives collection.

Printed ticket

Ticket for lecture by British novelist Evelyn Waugh, February 10, 1949

Black and white photograph

Inauguration of J. Hunter Guthrie, S.J. as Georgetown University President, May 1, 1949

This presidential inauguration ceremony was the first at Georgetown since 1935 when Arthur A. O’Leary, S.J. was inaugurated. Because of World War II, no formal inauguration was held for Father O’Leary’s successor, Lawrence C. Gorman, S.J., appointed President in 1942.

Typed letter

Letter from Francis Heyden, S.J. to University Rector (President) Lawrence C. Gorman, S.J. about a broadcast of Vaughn Monroe’s Camel Caravan radio show from Gaston Hall on January 8, 1949

The Camel Caravan show, hosted by Monroe, a singer, trumpeter, big band leader, actor and businessman, was sponsored by the Camel Cigarette Company. Father Heyden, whose name will be associated by many with the Georgetown Observatory, was also very interested in radio. He conducted a Mass for Shut-Ins from Dahlgren Chapel which was broadcast every Sunday and was moderator of the campus radio station WGTB, whose name is seen at the top of this letter.

Black and white photograph

Printed honorary degree citation

Konrad Adenauer speaking at an Academic Convocation in his honor, April 7, 1953. Honorary degree citation for Chancellor Adenauer

Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Georgetown. His honorary degree citation describes him as an enemy of tyranny and a champion of liberty. Adenauer was in Washington, D.C. for meetings with President Eisenhower and State and Defense Department officials. 

Printed flyer

Flyer for debate between Leonard Hall, L’20, Chair of the Republican National Committee, and Stephen Mitchell, L’28, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, March 15, 1954

The debate consisted of a 20-minute talk by each speaker, a 10-minute rebuttal by each and 30 minutes of replies to written questions submitted from the floor.

Typed press release

Georgetown University News Service release for a speech by Robert F. Kennedy on “The Soviet People Visited -- 1955” to be given on October 10, 1955

Printed poster

Poster for Mask and Bauble’s performance of “The First Legion,” November 1 and 2, 1956

Magazine article

“Young Hungarian resistance leader prophesies at Gaston Rally that his country will be free.” Georgetown Record, December 1956

On November 26, 1956, just at the close of the Hungarian Revolution, a 21-year-old Hungarian, using an assumed name to protect his identity, spoke through an interpreter.

Black and white magazine photograph

Ambassador of Israel Abba Eban speaks on “Israel and the Middle East” on April 9, 1957. Pictured in the Georgetown Record, May 1957

Black and white photograph

Glee Club rehearsal, 1959

Black and white photograph

Bob Hope and T. Byron Collins, S.J., Vice President for Business Management, at Science Building [Reiss] groundbreaking ceremonies in Gaston Hall, October 9, 1960

Bob Hope, whose son Anthony was enrolled in the College, was  toastmaster at the formal dinner that followed the groundbreaking ceremony. Mr. Hope returned to campus in 1962 to receive an honorary degree which was awarded at his son’s commencement ceremony.

Handmade poster

Poster for talk on the Apollo Space Program by astronaut Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr., April 30, 1964

In 1963, Cooper piloted the last Mercury spaceflight; during that mission he became the first American to spend 24 hours in space. Two years later, he became the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight when he piloted Gemini 5.

Newspaper clipping

Washington Post notice of a concert by contemporary folk singer Joan Baez on May 25, 1964

This concert was put together on relatively short notice. Ms. Baez apparently had a free day on her itinerary and the East Campus Student Council persuaded her to play.

Printed poster

Poster for SongFest, September 30, 1965

Newspaper clipping

“Poet Ginsberg Entertains Curious Crowd.” The Hoya, March 7, 1968

Press release

Georgetown University News Service release on the first concert given by the Georgetown Symphony Orchestra, April 5, 1968


Program for lecture by San Francisco Mayor Joseph L. Alioto on “Law and the Campus”, March 13, 1969

This lecture did not take place. Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), most of whom were not Georgetown students, stormed the event and prevented the Mayor from speaking. Their protest was motivated by the Mayor’s decision to call in the National Guard and San Francisco police to break up a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War and for social justice by students at San Francisco State.

Black and white photograph

Newspaper article

Representative Shirley Chisholm speaks as part of Georgetown’s first Black Awareness Week, April 16, 1969. “Chisholm Sees Moral Apathy in America.” The Hoya, February 21, 1986

Representative Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress; she represented New York's 12th Congressional District from 1969 to 1983. Among other speakers at the 1969 event were Rev. Channing E. Phillips, Julius Hobson, James Farmer, and Joseph Applegate. 

Former Representative Chisholm returned to speak, almost 17 years after her first appearance, on February 12, 1986.

Black and white photograph

The Chimes sing at the dedication of Lauinger Library, April 25, 1970

The Library is named for Joseph Mark Lauinger, C’1967, who was an active member of The Chimes. At the dedication ceremony, after an address by Dr. Donald R. Penn, long-time professor of History at Georgetown, the Chimes took the stage, with a number of Chimes alumni joining the student members.


Poster for a speech by Betty Friedan, sponsored by the Student Government Lecture Fund, November 10, 1970

Declaring that no man, woman, or child can escape the necessity of completing this revolution, Ms. Friedan spoke about the Women’s Liberation Movement in a packed Gaston Hall. She returned to campus on October 2, 1984, again to Gaston Hall,  and spoke about the state of the women’s movement in the U.S. and the changing role of women in contemporary society at an event sponsored by the Lecture Fund.


Flyer for A Christian-Marxist Dialogue sponsored by the Student Government Lecture Series, March 30, 1971


Poster for speech by Art Buchwald, sponsored by the Student Government Lecture Fund, April 29, 1971

Humorist Art Buchwald returned to campus in 1979 when he delivered the commencement address.


Curated by Lynn Conway, University Archivist