It is only fitting that somewhere on campus, the son of Mary Ball Washington should have his own namesake building. It is an especially appropriate tribute that George Washington Hall is the heart of campus administration, including the office of the university president.
The story of the United States’s first president is taught to schoolchildren all over the country at an early age. Born in 1732 in Virginia, Washington grew up in Westmoreland County near the future site of the University of Mary Washington. The young Washington was a surveyor and soldier, first serving in the French and Indian War. In 1775, the Continental Congress chose him to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in their bid for independence from England. After the successful American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution, Washington was elected the first President of the United States. He would only enjoy three years of retirement after his years in office, dying on December 14, 1799.[1. “George Washington,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/georgewashington..]
Eileen Kramer Dodd joined the Mary Washington faculty in 1926 as a professor of education, Head of the Commerce Department, and a class sponsor, coordinating some of the earliest Devil-Goat Day festivities.[2. William B. Crawley Jr., University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008 (Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington Foundation, 2008), 44.] Her support of one junior class resulted in the 1937 Battlefield, the school yearbook, being dedicated to Mrs. Dodd.[3. “Full text of ‘Battlefield, 1937,’” Internet Archive, http://www.archive.org/stream/battlefield193700univ/battlefield193700univ_djvu.txt.] Professor Dodd taught at the college for forty-four years, finally retiring from the Psychology Department in 1970.[4. Crawley, 215.]
George Washington Hall:
Construction of the future George Washington Hall, named for the nation’s first president, began in 1938 and was meant to fill a pressing need for administrative space and classrooms following a boom in the college’s student body.[5. Ibid., 43.] Artist Emil Schnellock designed and painted the hall’s murals, also painting those in Monroe Hall.[6. Ibid., 44.] Besides offices, there were originally five classrooms on the third floor and social spaces on the lower level and roof, and a broadcasting studio on the upper level.[7. Ibid., 43.] The Hall of Mirrors in the basement of George Washington Hall was an especially popular site for school dances and social functions. However, in 1962, the school’s growth required more classroom and administrative space, so the Hall of Mirrors was converted into office space.[8. Ibid., 60.] The hall used to have a rooftop garden used for less formal occasions, but is also no longer in use.[9. “George Washington Hall,” A Walk Through Time: Celebrating 100, http://museum.umwhisp.org/index.php?id=171.] The building presently houses administrative offices, the office of the university President, and Dodd Auditorium.
Alongside the first floor offices, George Washington Hall was built with an auditorium that could seat over 1,600 people and had dressing rooms and extensive backstage areas for productions.[10. Crawley, 43.] The auditorium renamed nameless until renovations in 1980, when it was named for Eileen Kramer Dodd, a professor that retired in 1970.[11. Ibid., 215.] Over the years, Dodd Auditorium has hosted the popular Fredericksburg Forum,[12. “The Fredericksburg Forum,” University of Mary Washington, http://www.umw.edu/forum/.] the Great Lives Lecture Series, along with countless artistic and social events.[13. Crawley, 874.]