Accolades: ACC Honors Football Team’s ‘Thursday’s Heroes’ Program


The UVA football team is the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference 2019-20 Game Changers Award for its “Thursday’s Heroes” program, the league office announced April 7.

The ACC’s Game Changers initiative was introduced in 2015 to recognize and highlight specific conference teams’ involvement with their local communities. Under the watch of current head football coach Bronco Mendenhall, Thursday’s Heroes has provided support for 63 young people and their families in the Charlottesville area since its inception nearly four years ago.

“The impact being made by the Virginia football program through Thursday’s Heroes is inspiring and commendable,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said.

Continuing the concept of a program Mendenhall and his wife, Holly, spearheaded at Brigham Young University prior to his arrival at UVA, Thursday’s Heroes reaches out to individuals who are undergoing a difficult circumstance (medical, physical, cognitive, etc.) and makes them feel a part of the Cavalier football family.

“The trophies and the wins and all that – yeah, they’re necessary for job security, and the world makes a big deal of that,” Bronco Mendenhall said. “But it’s hollow without the substance. Relationships are everything. Other than that, it would just be a game, and that doesn’t sound quite meaningful enough to me.”

Each Thursday during football season and spring practices – at least when they are not pre-empted by global pandemics – Heroes and their families are invited to tour the Cavalier football facilities, watch practice and meet players and coaches. Virginia players take turns showering them with gifts, which may include UVA gear, a signed football, headphones, a bicycle, school supplies, Halloween costumes and special video messages from favorite celebrities; Peyton Manning, Kenny Chesney, Odell Beckham Jr. and Hugh Jackman are among past participants. Players and coaches from other UVA athletic teams often join the football program in celebrating and gifting the Heroes.

Players have been known to dress as the Heroes’ favorite characters – Captain America, Mr. Incredible, Black Panther, Spider-Man and even Santa Claus. The goal: to put a smile on each Hero’s face. 

“As a student-athlete, I feel as though so much of our life is devoted to academics and sports, but our Thursday’s Heroes program has shown me that there is so much more to life than just football and school, [that] there are many people out there fighting battles much bigger than mine,” senior linebacker Reed Kellam said. “Thursday’s Heroes is the best tradition of the UVA football program, and it has changed my life.”

“Everything [they] do is touching and changing somebody’s life,” said Michelle Wright, the mother of a Thursday’s Hero. “It could be big or small, but it’s a difference – a positive difference.”  

UVA’s Online Graduate Education Offerings Among the Nation’s Best

College Consensus, a website that aggregates publisher rankings and student reviews, listed the University of Virginia as No. 6 in the nation in its survey of the “100 Best Online Graduate Schools for 2020.”

In compiling its rankings, College Consensus combined results from what it called “the most respected college rankings” – including those published by Forbes, Money, U.S. News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, WalletHub and Washington Monthly – with thousands of student reviews from sites like Cappex, Niche and Student Review to produce a consensus score for each school.

Stanford University took the first spot this year, with the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, Columbia University, and Northwestern University rounding out the top five.

UVA Police Among Those Honored for Work in Prosecuting Aug. 11-12 Hate Crimes

The Anti-Defamation League in February honored a team of local, state and federal law enforcement partners – including the UVA Police Department – who worked together to prosecute James Fields Jr., the white supremacist who was convicted of more than two dozen hate crimes for a car attack in Charlottesville in August 2017. The groups received ADL SHIELD Awards during the group’s 10th annual awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington.

Since 2010, the league annually recognizes law enforcement for significant contributions toward protecting the American people from hate crimes, extremism, and domestic or international terrorism.

Besides the UVA Police, the ADL SHIELD Award recognized contributions from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, the Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Virginia State Police, the Charlottesville City Police Department, the Albemarle County Police Department and the City of Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. 

“The awful events of Aug. 12, 2017, including James Fields’ act of domestic terrorism, left an indelible mark on the local Charlottesville community, the Commonwealth of Virginia and our country,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said in a press release. “Although we couldn’t bring Heather Heyer back or heal the permanent physical and psychological injuries suffered by dozens of others, we could seek meaningful justice for these victims, their families and the community, and send a clear message that hate-inspired acts of violence, murder and terror will be met with the full and collective force of American law enforcement. I am very proud of our federal, state and local partners and grateful to the ADL for recognizing their extraordinary achievements.” 

Fields was convicted of 29 federal hate crimes, as well as first-degree murder in state court, and is currently serving multiple life sentences for his actions of Aug. 12, 2017. After attending the violent Unite the Right rally in downtown Charlottesville, he deliberately drove his car into a group of antiracism protestors, killing Heyer and injuring at least 28 others.

Local, state and federal investigators undertook a massive coordinated investigation. They collected and reviewed more than 5,000 hours of video footage related to the Unite the Right Rally, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and victims, and completed an exhaustive review of Fields’ background and social media profile to develop evidence of his racist and anti-Semitic motivations. 

UVA Health Wins National Award for Neurosurgery and Spine Care

For the sixth consecutive year, Becker’s Hospital Review has honored the UVA Medical Center in its list of 100 hospitals and health systems with great neurosurgery and spine programs.

Becker’s noted that the programs recognized are research leaders in brain and spine disorders. “Many hospitals and health systems featured have earned top honors for medical excellence, outcomes and patient experience in their spine and brain surgery departments,” wrote editors at the national health care publication in their introduction to the honorees.

In its description of UVA, Becker’s highlighted the work of the UVA Spine Center, where UVA neurosurgeons and orthopaedic spine surgeons combine to perform more than 1,500 spine procedures annually.

“I’m happy to see our orthopaedic spine surgeons and neurosurgical colleagues recognized for their excellent, comprehensive spinal care, including surgical and nonsurgical options,” said Dr. Francis Shen, division head for spine surgery at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The publication also recognized the groundbreaking work, led by UVA neurosurgeon Dr. W. Jeffrey Elias, to develop focused ultrasound, a scalpel-free surgical approach using focused sound waves. Elias was named the 2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year by the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group for pioneering the use of focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor, heading the clinical trials that led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of this treatment approach for the common movement disorder. Elias also spearheaded the testing that led to FDA approval of focused ultrasound to treat medication-resistant Parkinson’s tremor.

Rare Book School Director Selected to Deliver Prestigious Lectures

Michael Suarez, executive director of the Rare Book School at UVA, has been selected to deliver the 90th annual A.S.W. Rosenbach Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, the longest continuing series of book-historical lectures in the United States.

The lectures, originally scheduled for March, were postponed until the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suarez’s topic, “Printing Abolition: How the Fight to Ban the British Slave Trade Was Won, 1783-1807,” will offer a fresh perspective on British abolition, richly informed by political prints, personal correspondence, newspapers, pamphlets, account books, committee minutes, parliamentary reports and private diaries. Through the series of highly illustrated lectures, Suarez will trace the production and distribution of abolitionist print, revealing the hidden networks that variously sustained what he calls the first humanitarian mass media campaign. Creating ties to the humanitarian campaigns of our time, Suarez will also discuss forced migration, human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and what the drive to stop Britain’s shameful trade can teach us today.

In addition to serving as executive director of Rare Book School and University Professor, Suarez is a Jesuit priest. The editor-in-chief of Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, he recently completed his term as a Distinguished Presidential Fellow of the Council on Library and Information Resources in Washington, D.C., and was nominated by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities. In 2015, he delivered the Lyell Lectures in Bibliography and Book History at Oxford University.

Environmental Engineering Professor Earns Dual Honors

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Environmental and Water Resources Institute is recognizing Teresa B. Culver’s contributions in environmental and water resource engineering with the 2020 Margaret S. Petersen Award.

Culver, an associate professor in UVA Engineering’s Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, was selected for her “selfless dedication to preparing and mentoring future civil and environmental engineers and to serving the professional community through service and leadership.”

Culver also was named the 2020 recipient of the Service to the Institute Award.

Culver’s contributions to the institute include serving on the Technical Coordination Executive Committee, chairing the Groundwater Council, serving on the Interdisciplinary Council, chairing the awards committee and representing the institute on the American Society of Civil Engineers national Walter L. Huber Award selection committee; she won the Huber Award in 2002 for her research in the simulation and management of water quality. She was also the founding chair of the hydraulic fracturing committee.

Culver and her students have recently been investigating innovative green infrastructure systems for stormwater management. They are part of a broader community of researchers at UVA Engineering addressing numerous environmental and infrastructure challenges.

In making its selection for the two awards, the Environmental and Water Resources Institute pointed to Culver’s distinguished tenure at UVA. During her time at the School of Engineering, she has earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and her teaching has been recognized by the Engineering School and the University. She has taught 15 different courses in civil engineering and has directed the undergraduate civil engineering program for 17 years.

Blazing a trail as the first female faculty member in the nation’s second-oldest public civil engineering program, Culver has opened doors for women engineers ever since. She has advised 48 female students on their undergraduate theses – 44% of her advisees – and created service-learning courses attractive to groups that are underrepresented in engineering. She has helped support the increase in women enrolled in the program, which is poised to graduate a majority-women undergraduate class of civil engineers in 2021.

“Teresa has been tireless in her service to the environmental engineering research community through her work with the institute, and it’s great to see her recognized for it,” Brian L. Smith, professor and chair of the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, said. “By providing technical information developed through research to engineers in the field, she and the institute help to address significant challenges related to water resources and infrastructure, which in turn improves the lives of real people.

“She is also highly respected in her field, and I appreciate the stature she brings to our department.”

Mack, Morse and Söderlund Named ACC Postgraduate Scholars

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Feb. 21 that three UVA senior student-athletes – football player Jordan Mack, women’s soccer player Zoe Morse and men’s tennis player Carl Söderlund – are among 50 from league institutions selected as 2020 Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate Scholarship Award recipients.

The Weaver-James-Corrigan and Jim and Pat Thacker postgraduate scholarships are awarded to selected student-athletes who intend to pursue a graduate degree following completion of their undergraduate requirements. Each recipient will receive $6,000 toward his or her graduate education. Those honored have performed with distinction in both the classroom and their respective sport, while demonstrating exemplary conduct in the community.

Mack, the winner of the ACC’s Jim Tatum Award as the conference’s top football scholar-athlete, appeared in 47 games as a Cavalier and recorded 289 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. The Lithonia, Georgia, native was a finalist for the 2019 William B. Campbell Trophy, presented by the National Football Foundation to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete. Mack is a three-time ACC All-Academic Team member and a three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll selection. He was named to College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District 3 team. Last week, Mack signed with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent.

A three-time member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll, Morse helped the Cavaliers post a 61-18-10 record through her four-year career, including 45 shutouts in that time. She was twice named to the ACC Women’s Soccer All-Academic Team (2018, 2019). This past season, the East Lansing, Michigan, native was named an All-Region selection by the United Soccer Coaches after helping the Cavaliers advance to the finals of the ACC Championship and earn the program’s 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. She was also named a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and a Scholar All-Region selection by the United Soccer Coaches. She started 85 of 86 games played, tallying 6,826 career minutes, and was drafted 19th overall by the Orlando Pride in this year’s NWSL Draft. She was a resident of the Lawn this year.

Söderlund, a 2019 All-American, reached a No. 1 ITA singles ranking in the 2019-20 preseason. He was both the 2019 ACC Men’s Tennis Player of the Year and the ACC Men’s Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year, as well as being named the top male scholar athlete of the UVA Athletics Department at last year’s Hoos Choice awards. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, he is a three-time All-ACC honoree and received the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic Region rookie of the year during his freshman campaign, when he helped lead the Cavaliers to the 2017 NCAA team championship. The three-time All-ACC Academic Team member and three-time Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar Athlete was a resident of the Lawn this year.

Federalist Society Named National Chapter of the Year

The Federalist Society at the School of Law was named winner of the James Madison Award for national student chapter of the year for the first time. 

Among the “Feddie Awards” announced in March, the student organization also won the Samuel Adams Award for membership growth. This is the first time a student chapter has been presented two awards by the national office in the same year. 

Federalist Society membership has grown to more than 200, making UVA’s chapter the nation’s largest, said chapter President Will Brantley, a third-year law student. 

Programming in the past year included nearly 20 speaking events and a daylong symposium analyzing originalism. Brantley said the chapter also co-sponsored social events with other student organizations, such as a bowling night with the Latin American Law Organization, and Middle Eastern and North African Law Student Association, and an annual trivia night with Lambda Law Alliance and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. 

“I think what sets the UVA Federalist Society chapter apart from other chapters is the same thing that sets UVA apart from other law schools: a dedication to building a uniquely social and collegial community,” Brantley said. 

The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order,” according to a statement on the chapter website.

“It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to the Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

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Dan Heuchert

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