Looking Forward to 2021 | Retirement Contributions Update

December 18, 2020

To the George Washington University Community:

With the end of 2020 near, it is safe to say this year will go down in the record books as a difficult period for the world, our country, and our communities. However, I believe reflected more prominently in that record will be stories of heroism, resilience, and support. Behind these stories are members of our university community, and you all are reasons to be grateful and optimistic heading into 2021.

Our safety and public health professionals, nurses, and physicians continue their tireless work to keep us healthy and safe. Our students continue to gain the knowledge and leadership abilities our world will need from the next generation.  And our staff, faculty, and researchers continue to support and harness the power of our teaching and research mission for good.  It is in no small part thanks to many at our university that we have helped to make one of the most important scientific advancements in recent history by serving as a clinical trial site for the Moderna vaccine, which is widely expected to be authorized for use soon. And just this week, our university played a central role in the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, kicking off the nationwide vaccination effort and injecting more hope into 2021.

With this positive news, and with our ongoing commitment to public health measures, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Our frontline health care workers are starting to receive the vaccine, and while it will take some time for all members of our community to have access to it, we are hopeful we will be able to be back in person to the fullest extent possible in fall 2021. I recognize the challenges before us are still great, but we should allow ourselves some time to think about the brighter days ahead.

One of our top priorities in moving forward is acting as soon as financially prudent to reverse temporary measures we took this year to protect our core mission.  After carefully reviewing our financial situation and the impact of steps we have taken to date to manage the effects of the pandemic, I am pleased to report that we are now able to take the following actions:

  • We will reinstate the university’s base retirement contribution for staff and faculty. In January, all eligible faculty and staff will receive an 8 percent base contribution to reflect December and January contributions. In February and thereafter, the base contribution will continue at the usual 4 percent.  
  • We also will provide promotion-related salary increases for recently tenured and promoted faculty, effective January 1. 

While we do not yet believe we are in the financial position to reinstate the university’s retirement matching contribution, we will continue to closely monitor our financial situation to determine when we can take this further step for our community.  

Helping us take these steps are the ongoing efforts of our staff and faculty, who have continued to ensure our students have a high-quality experience. Our community has found innovative ways to teach and support students, host virtual only-at-GW events, and collaborate to provide new resources or enhance policies.

Building on this momentum, I am looking forward in the New Year to more opportunities to collaborate with our entire community, and I am excited to welcome additional residential students back to campus. I also am eager to continue to find ways to amplify the positive impact this community has on the world and to position GW for the future, including by improving the student experience, supporting our staff and faculty, and furthering the academic mission.

In 2021, we will enter our bicentennial year in a position of strength, which is a direct result of the strength of this community. As we reflect on the incredible 200-year history of our university and the people who built this great institution, we will find even more hope and optimism for what we can accomplish. There is nothing we cannot achieve if we do it together.

I wish you and your families a restful, happy, and healthy holiday season. Anne and I are looking forward to spending more time together, and we hope to limit our screen use to family video calls.  We all need a break from Zoom and Webex. And while I have a backlog of reading to catch up on, I always welcome new recommendations if you have any.

I look forward to seeing you in 2021. Stay safe and stay well.


Thomas J. LeBlanc