February 14, 2008 — The University of Virginia will bestow its highest external honors, the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals, to U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va.; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; and Gro Harlem Brundtland, United Nations special envoy on climate change.
The medals recognize the achievements of those who embrace endeavors that Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. president and founder of the University of Virginia — excelled in and held in high regard. As U.Va. does not award honorary degrees, these medals are the highest honors given to individuals outside the University community.
Sponsored jointly by the University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, a nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the annual awards are conferred during the University's Founder's Day celebrations, held around Jefferson's April 13 birthday. In addition to receiving a medal struck for the occasion, recipients will attend ceremonies in the Rotunda and a dinner at Monticello.
"It is a privilege to join with the University in honoring these individuals for their landmark contributions in fields that were of particular interest to Jefferson," said Daniel P. Jordan, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. "These medals emphasize the vitality of the Jeffersonian ideals of creativity and leadership in today's world."
Warner will be the second recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership, created last year to honor personal leadership and lasting influence on our common culture. A 1953 alumnus of the U.Va. School of Law who served as secretary of the Navy and five terms in the Senate, Warner last fall announced his retirement with the Rotunda as a backdrop.
Scalia, the second-most senior associate justice on the Supreme Court, will receive the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law. Hailed as "one of the most consequential legal figures of our time" by U.Va. Law School Dean John C. Jeffries Jr., Scalia has served on the court since 1986. Like Warner, he has personal ties to the Law School, having taught there from 1967 to 1971.
Brundtland, who served as prime minister of Norway and has had a distinguished career as a politician, physician, diplomat and activist, will receive the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture. The award recognizes her "legendary leadership in global sustainability and the stewardship of our environment, values that we have championed and developed in our work with the School of Architecture," said Architecture School Dean Karen Van Lengen.
The University's Founder's Day schedule is not yet complete and will be announced at a later date.