2023 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals Awarded at Founder’s Day Celebration

April 13, 2023 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

On a brilliant spring Thursday, the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello bestowed their highest honors, the Thomas Jefferson Medals.

UVA President Jim Ryan opened the program on what is known at the University as Founder’s Day, commemorating Jefferson’s 280th birthday.

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“This day offers us a chance to reflect and celebrate Jefferson’s legacy, which, as you know, is both inspiring and complicated,” he said. “The highlight of the day is this event, where we get to honor a truly remarkable group of people who have made outstanding contributions to their respective fields and whose life work exemplified the values that Jefferson himself held in the highest esteem.”

This year, Thomas Jefferson Medals were bestowed upon honorees in the fields of architecture, law and citizen leadership.

The Jefferson Medalist in Architecture is Andrew Freear, Wiatt Professor at Auburn University Rural Studio. Freear lives in rural Hale County, Alabama, where for nearly two decades he has directed a program that questions the conventional education of architects. His students have designed and constructed more than 200 community buildings, homes and parks in their under-resourced community.

The Jefferson Medalists in Law are lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju. In 2018, they won a landmark case before India’s Supreme Court that struck down a 157-year-old law that made gay sex illegal. The pair, who have become heroes of the LGBTQ+ community in their country, are currently spearheading a marriage equality case, to be heard by the Supreme Court of India this spring, and were unable to attend Thursday’s ceremonies.

Close up of medal
Each medal is struck for the occasion and specially engraved.
Andrew Freear giving a speech
“I am honored and a little overwhelmed,” said Andrew Freear as he accepted the Jefferson Medal in Architecture. “Starting in 1966, with the first architecture medal recipient, Mies van der Rohe, [the] Thomas Jefferson Foundation has clearly recognized the wide breadth of architectural discourse.”
Image of the audience during the ceremony
In prerecorded acceptance remarks, law medalists Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju said they were honored and humbled to be recognized. The two were unable to come to Charlottesville because they are in India preparing for a Supreme Court case about marriage equality.
Jason Rezaian giving a speech
Washington Post journalist and citizen leadership medalist Jason Rezaian described the torture of being falsely imprisoned by Iran for 544 days. He urged people in the audience to advocate for those whose civil rights have been violated.
Rezaian’s mother, Mary, proudly filmed her son’s remarks
Rezaian’s mother, Mary, proudly filmed her son’s remarks in the Dome Room.
High shot of luncheon
The luncheon included members of UVA’s Board of Visitors and trustees of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

The Jefferson Medalist in Citizen Leadership is Jason Rezaian, an award-winning writer and journalist for the Washington Post. A first-generation American of Iranian descent, Rezaian became The Post’s Tehran bureau chief in 2012. In 2014, he was arrested on unsubstantiated charges of espionage.

Freed after 544 days of imprisonment, Rezaian has since used his platform to fight for the freedom and the liberty of others, championing the stories of other journalists imprisoned for doing their jobs and for fellow Americans held hostage abroad solely because of their citizenship. His reporting continues to elevate the stories both of Iranians and those around the globe.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications