New Portraits, Markers Honor Important Stories and Figures in UVA History

February 16, 2022 By Caroline Newman, Caroline Newman,

The University of Virginia this month launched an effort to highlight events and people who have broken barriers, sparked change and shaped UVA into the university it is today.

The initiative, which includes installation of portraits and markers commemorating important people, moments and places, began with the unveiling of a portrait of former Rector George Keith Martin and the installation of a historical marker commemorating the “Coat and Tie Rebellion.”

The additions were informed by the work of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the Historic Landscape at UVA, chaired by President Emeritus John T. Casteen III and history professor Claudrena Harold. That committee delivered recommendations in 2018; a second Advisory Committee, chaired by University Architect Alice Raucher, subsequently identified specific sites for recognition.

“These portraits and markers help us better understand the history of the University and are a reminder that each of us has the potential to enact lasting change,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “I’m grateful to the committee members whose work was key to the project, and I’m eager to honor the people and events commemorated by these markers and portraits.”

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Each new marker or portrait will draw attention to particular moments in UVA’s 200-year history, and to some of the many men and women who have made the University a more open and vibrant community.

“The University has an incredibly rich and multilayered history, and the committee deemed it important to recognize and memorialize events, movements and people who provoked changes that have come to be fundamental to what the University is in our time and what it aspires to be in the future,” Harold said.  

“These additions add texture and substance to the University’s historic landscape. They will introduce future generations to the stories of this university, and help new students and others make the stories their own,” Casteen said. “I am thankful for everyone who has provided perspective and guidance as we work to share these stories.”

The portrait series includes both painted and photographic portraits of alumni, faculty, staff members and administrators who have worked to make UVA a more outstanding and inclusive university. Many are still doing that work today.

George Keith Martin

Hallway that has a picture of George Keith Martin hanging on the wall
George Keith Martin served as the first African American rector of the University. His portrait now hangs in the second floor of Wilson Hall. (Contributed photo)

Martin served as the first African American rector of the University, the head of UVA’s governing Board of Visitors. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell appointed Martin, a 1975 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, to the board in 2011, and he began his two-year term as rector in 2013. 

A Richmond native, Martin is a former managing partner at the McGuireWoods LLP law firm, practicing construction, commercial, real estate and local government law. He received his law degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1978 and previously served on the board of Regent University School of Law and the James Madison University board, as well as the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners and the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education.

His portrait now hangs in the second floor of Wilson Hall, symmetrically across from the portrait of former UVA English professor James Southall Wilson, for whom the building is named. Wilson Hall originally housed the English and rhetoric and communications departments, which were Martin’s majors.

‘The Coat and Tie Rebellion’

Coat and Tie Rebellion marker and the backside of the Rotunda
This new marker tells the story of the “Coat and Tie Rebellion,” a three-day student protest that began on Feb. 16, 1969. (Contributed photo)

Located near Pavilion I as you enter the west side of the Academical Village, this new marker tells the story of the “Coat and Tie Rebellion,” a three-day protest that began on Feb. 16, 1969. The student movement focused on 11 demands, including the integration of African Americans into all areas of the University, the integration of the Board of Visitors, unionization rights for UVA employees, minimum wage increases for UVA employees, the elimination of application fees for low-income students and the formation of a Black Studies department, among other measures.

The protest was organized by a group called the Student Coalition and included student leaders from various areas of the University. The “Coat and Tie Rebellion” moniker is a nod to UVA’s longstanding dress tradition at that time.

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