Stephen Joel Trachtenberg: Our Namesake

President Emeritus Stephen J. Trachtenberg

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg

President Emeritus, The George Washington University

"I believe in the Trachtenberg School's mission. Public service is empowering. Learning about the process of governing our nation makes the country and democracy stronger."


Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, University Professor Emeritus; University President Emeritus, served as president of the George Washington University from 1988-2007. While president, he started a full scholarship program for DC public school students, increased the national profile of the university and fostered the observance of school traditions such as George Washington's birthday celebration.

During Trachtenberg's tenure as president the university created five new schools: Public Health and Health Services, Public Policy and Public Administration, College of Professional Studies, Graduate School of Political Management and Media and Public Affairs; initiated the University Honors Program; upgraded GW's library system; elevated GW's NCAA Division One athletic program; strengthened university relations with District of Columbia civic leadership; established Northern Virginia and Mount Vernon campuses; and upgraded and developed University academic, residential and recreational facilities.

Trachtenberg's teaching and research interest is educational leadership. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Council on Foreign Relations and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He serves on many academic, civic, corporate and international boards, including Bankinter’s Foundation for Technical Innovation (Spain). His previous government positions include that of attorney with the Atomic Energy Commission, Legislative Aide to former Congressman John Brademas and Special Assistant to the U.S. Education Commissioner Harold Howe.

Trachtenberg's views on issues pertaining to higher education are widely published internationally. His speeches, commentaries, reviews and articles appear regularly in a variety of publications, including Academe, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, the Washington Times and the New York Times. His books include Reflections on Higher Education, Thinking Out Loud: A Decade of Thoughts on Higher Education, Speaking His Mind: Five Years of Commentary on Higher Education; and Big Man on Campus. He co-edited the books The Art of Hiring in America's Colleges & Universities and Presidencies Derailed. In the spring of 2018, his most recent book, Leading Colleges and Universities (co-edited), was published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Trachtenberg earned his BA from Columbia University, his MPA from Harvard and his JD from Yale. He has been awarded more than 25 honorary doctoral degrees. Of those, he is proudest of the LLD from Columbia, his alma mater, but claims the most fun one is the MD from Odessa. He also appreciates the Distinguished Public Service Award he received from the Secretary of State and his Medal Of Merit from Department of the Treasury.