Founder’s Day, Jefferson Medalist Events Happening Friday

Each year on or near Thomas Jefferson’s birthday – April 13, known locally as “Founder’s Day” – the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello present their highest honors, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals.

This year, April 13 falls on a weekend, so Founder’s Day activities are being celebrated Friday. Most are free and open to the public.

Reviving the University’s 19th-century tradition of “Public Day” this year, Founder’s Day will also showcase student research and creative works at OpenGrounds. The Jefferson Trust grants, described as “a venture fund for new initiatives at the University of Virginia,” will be awarded in a public ceremony. The University also will plant a tree to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to U.Va.

The 2014 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in Architecture, Law and Citizen Leadership, will be presented to, respectively:

  • Toyo Ito, a Tokyo-based architect who combines conceptual innovation with superbly executed buildings, as in his masterpiece, the Sendai, Japan Mediatheque, which reimagines what a public museum and library should be in the digital age.
  • Kenneth R. Feinberg, an attorney who has administered the compensation funds for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech and the Boston Marathon bombings.
  • James H. Webb Jr., a former U.S. Senator (D-Va.) and Secretary of the Navy, decorated Vietnam War veteran and successful author, journalist and filmmaker.

The Jefferson Medals recognize the achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson, the founder of the University, author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president, excelled and held in high regard.

Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that owns and operates Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan will present the medals, struck for the occasion, in the Rotunda Dome Room on Friday at 1:30 p.m., in a public ceremony immediately following a private luncheon. The recipients are honored Thursday evening at a private dinner at Monticello, and each gives a free public talk at U.Va.

Biographies of each winner are available here.

Webb spoke Thursday at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and will be the featured speaker at Monticello’s commemoration of Jefferson’s 271st birthday on Friday at 10 a.m. on the West Lawn of Monticello. The celebration is free and open to the public. 

The School of Law will host a public talk by Feinberg on Friday at 10 a.m. in the Caplin Pavilion.

The School of Architecture will host a translated public talk by Ito on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. 

The University’s 19th-century end-of-year celebration, Public Day, is being revived this year as part of Founder’s Day. Student research and creative works will be showcased for the community at OpenGrounds on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Students, from first-years through doctoral candidates, will share a mix of scientific research, musical performances and humanities discoveries on topics ranging from planning ideas for the slums of Mumbai, India to synthetic biology, pancreatic cancer and how coffee breaks can promote community. 

Projects exploring the early life of the University, the art and robotic science of dance, design-driven manufacturing studios and a close examination of “the Father of Our Country” are among those to be funded by grants from the U.Va. Alumni Association’s Jefferson Trust. A public presentation of this year’s 22 grants will take place Friday at 4:30 p.m. on the south steps of the Rotunda.

Established in 2004, the Jefferson Trust is an unrestricted endowment that distributes grants annually through a University-wide program. The trust supports a variety of initiatives that enhance teaching, scholarship and research; programs that allow faculty and students to work closely together while engaging in hands-on learning; and programs that allow the University community to reach out to other communities – locally, nationally and globally.

The Founder’s Day tree planting will pay tribute this year to Jay Klingel, who recently retired after a 35-year career in Facilities Management, including 10 years as director of operations and maintenance.

That ceremony will take place Friday at 11 a.m. on the west side of the Lawn between Pavilions III and V, where a “Legacy” sugar maple will be planted. The event is free and open to the public; parking will be available in the Culbreth Road Garage.

Media Contact

H. Brevy Cannon

Media Relations Associate Office of University Communications