Founder’s Day Celebrations Are Postponed, Go Virtual

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The University of Virginia’s Founder’s Day celebrates the April 13 birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the third United States president who also created the University.

Traditionally on Founder’s Day, UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello present the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals, recognizing achievements in architecture, citizen leadership, global innovation and law – areas in which Jefferson himself excelled. These are the highest external honors bestowed by the University, which grants no honorary degrees. In normal times, there would also be a tree planting, presentations and other ceremonies to mark Jefferson’s birthday. However, this year, in-person celebrations are curtailed because of COVID-19.

“It’s unfortunate that the pandemic has forced us to put off the traditional in-person events related to Founder’s Day for the past two years,” University President Jim Ryan said. “With increasing vaccination rates and brighter days on the horizon, we are hoping and planning to return to a normal Founder’s Day next spring.”

Francis Kéré, recipient of this year’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, will give a virtual public talk Monday at 5 p.m. via Zoom. Kéré is acclaimed for his communal approach to design and commitment to sustainability. The other Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals will be presented at a future date when in-person events can be safely held. To register for Kéré’s talk, visit here.

The tree-planting scheduled for this year was to honor University President Emerita Teresa A. Sullivan, with a Morton elm tree planted adjacent to Pavilion X. The ceremony also has been postponed until in-person gatherings can be held.

“The Morton, or Accolade, elm is very resistant to Dutch elm disease,” said Helen Wilson, senior landscape architect in the Office of the Architect of the University, in an email. “The selection of the species is the result of a major update to the 100-year tree-planting plan for the Lawn, known as the Lawn Tree Framework Plan, sponsored by the Office of the Architect for the University and authored by a local landscape architecture firm, Wolf Josey Landscape Architects.”

One non-virtual Founder’s Day event will take place as planned: the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will host the Carpe Donut food truck outside of Garrett Hall on Monday for the Batten community. Students, faculty and staff of the Batten School have been invited to sign up for a time slot to take a break, talk to others – from a safe distance – and reflect upon Jefferson’s legacy.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications