Founder’s Day Preview: Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalists, Tree Planting

(Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

On Friday, the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello will present the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals as part of a series of events commemorating Jefferson’s birthday, known at UVA as Founder’s Day.

In addition to the medals, which are the University’s highest external honors, Friday’s events include a special celebration of Jefferson’s 275th birthday at Monticello, a tree-planting ceremony and several talks by the 2018 Thomas Jefferson Foundation medalists.

The medals are presented jointly by UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello. The University’s highest external honors, they recognize outstanding leadership and achievement in fields that Jefferson held in high regard. The 2018 medalists are: 

  • Sir David Adjaye, OBE, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture: Adjaye is a globally acclaimed architect and founder of Adjaye Associates. He is renowned for his ingenious use of materials and sculptural designs, including the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture;
  •  Morgan Carrington “Cary” Fowler Jr., Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership: Fowler is an American agriculturalist and former executive director of the Crop Trust whose decades of work championing crop diversity and conservation include the creation of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – the world’s largest collection of crop diversity, housing more than 930,000 distinct varieties;
  • Frank H. Easterbrook, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law: Easterbrook is a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a senior lecturer of law at the University of Chicago Law School, known for his expertise in antitrust law, criminal law and procedure, and corporate law.

UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan and Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, will present the medals during a private luncheon at the University.Each of the medalists will also give a public talk. Fowler will be the keynote speaker at Monticello’s commemoration of Jefferson’s birthday, which begins at 9:45 a.m. on Friday. The celebration is free and open to the public and will also be live-streamed online at He will also speak to students during a private event at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Easterbrook will give a free public talk at noon on Thursday in the School of Law’s Caplin Pavilion. On Friday, the School of Architecture will host Adjaye for a free public talk at 4 p.m. in the Old Cabell Hall auditorium.

Additional Founder’s Day events include an annual tree-planting ceremony in honor of an individual who has made significant and lasting contributions to UVA. Environmental Programs Manager Jeff Sitler will be recognized at this year’s ceremony, presided over by Sullivan, at 10:30 a.m. on Friday west of The Dell tennis courts. [map]

Sitler is retiring from UVA’s Facilities Management department this year after more than 20 years of service. He has led innovative changes in the University’s stormwater management practices and worked to educate students and tour groups about green infrastructure and water quality issues.

The University will also dedicate Yen House, a dormitory in UVA’s International Residence College formerly known as Lewis House, during a ceremony at 4 p.m. on Friday. The building has been renamed to honor Yan Huiqing, known as W.W. Yen, the first Chinese student to earn a degree from UVA. Yen, who graduated in 1900, is also the first international student to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University. He went on to serve as China’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union and as a delegate in the League of Nations before serving as China’s premiere five times. The event is open to the public, and complimentary parking will be available in the Emmet/Ivy Parking Garage. Attendees should register here.

More information, including a full schedule of events, is available on the Founder’s Day website.