Each year on Founder’s Day – Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13 – the University of Virginia plants a tree to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to U.Va. This year the University will pay tribute to U.Va. President Emeritus John T. Casteen III.
Because April 13 falls on a Saturday, the ceremony will take place at 10:45 a.m. April 12 on the upper west terrace of Ruffin Hall (map), where a basswood tree (Tilia americana) will be planted. The event is free and open to the public; parking will be available in the Culbreth Road Garage.
“This tree will serve as an enduring symbol of John Casteen’s visionary leadership as well as his and Mrs. Casteen’s dedication to the Arts Grounds,” said U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan.
The ceremony comes just as the 300-seat Ruth Caplin Thrust Theatre addition to the Drama Building is being completed this month, giving shape to the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds. Both the theater and the Arts Grounds master plan were designed by Laurie Olin, who will receive this year’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture at a luncheon on Friday as part of Founder’s Day events.
Casteen worked at U.Va. for more than 27 years, as dean of admission from 1975 to 1982, and as president for 20 years from 1990 to 2010. As president, he oversaw a major restructuring of the University’s administrative and governance structures, one of the largest capital campaigns ever undertaken, significant improvements in academic programs and major expansions of the University’s physical facilities. During this period, the University also was recognized for its leadership in educating minority students, for the quality of its undergraduate teaching and for its success in refinancing itself following historic reductions in state tax support.
After teaching English at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Virginia, Casteen became Virginia’s secretary of education in 1982, serving until 1985. While secretary, he directed reforms in both secondary and higher education, revamped Virginia’s college desegregation efforts and initiated programs of state support for research. From 1985 to 1990, he was president of the University of Connecticut.
Among his many honors, Casteen was named Outstanding Virginian of 1993. In February 1996, he received the doctor honoris causa from the University of Athens in Greece. In 1998, he was named the University of Virginia’s outstanding alumnus of the year. The same year he received the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Social Sciences.
In November 2002, Casteen was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention’s Presidents Leadership Group Award. In 2009, Casteen was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Award for service, the University of Virginia’s highest honor. Also in 2009, the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce awarded Casteen the Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award.
Casteen holds three degrees in English from the University of Virginia: a B.A. with high honors in 1965, M.A. in 1966 and Ph.D. in 1970.
Visit the Office of Major Events for details on Founder’s Day activities.