Ryan reflected on UVA’s growth over 200 years – from eight small schools to a dozen, including a brand-new School of Data Science, and the UVA College at Wise; from eight professors and 68 students to more than 3,000 faculty members and 24,000-plus students. From a laboratory in the basement of the Rotunda, Ryan noted, UVA now has more than 1.5 million square feet of lab and studio space, and generated more than $400 million in sponsored research awards last year.
He also noted the contradictions in UVA’s founding and founder – “a place designed to liberate the mind was constructed and served by those denied their own liberation” – and recounted modern efforts to learn more about the enslaved laborers who built UVA and to honor their contributions and sufferings. It took a while, Ryan said, but UVA opened its doors to women and African Americans and today welcomes students of all backgrounds.
“Over the years, we have demonstrated time and again our capacity to change for the better, and change we have,” he said.
“Yet despite these vast changes, we have remained committed to our founding ideals of preparing citizen-leaders and pursuing the truth wherever it might lead. Indeed, in some ways, our university today represents the unforeseen and perhaps unimaginable fulfillment of Jefferson’s core ideas about the purpose and promise of a public university. We have taken his ideas, and we have run with them.”