UVA, Monticello Announce Recipients of 2019 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals

Jefferson coins in wooden felted cases

On April 12, the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello will present their highest honors, the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in Architecture, Citizen Leadership and Law.

This year's medalists are:

  • Architecture: Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, co-founders of the Tokyo-based firm SANAA whose major projects span the globe from Tokyo to Paris and Milan. MORE 
  • Citizen Leadership: Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. MORE 
  • Law: Carlton W. Reeves, a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi who has ruled in a number of important cases involving equality and civil rights. Reeves is the second African American appointed to a federal judgeship in Mississippi, following a nomination by President Barack Obama in 2010. MORE 

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals recognize the exemplary contributions of recipients to the endeavors in which Jefferson – the author of the Declaration of Independence, the third U.S. president and the founder of the University of Virginia – excelled and held in high regard.

“The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals are the highest external honor given by the University,” said UVA president Jim Ryan. “This year’s winners have pushed the boundaries of form and function, explored the depths of the oceans, and fought for truth and justice. I applaud them for their accomplishments and look forward to presenting them with their medals next month.”

The awards are presented annually in observance of Jefferson’s birthday, April 13 – known locally as Founder’s Day – by the president of the University and the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that owns and operates his home, Monticello. This year’s celebrations, including the medal presentations, will be held on Friday April 12.

“Jefferson’s vision for this nation (and the world) began with his belief in progress,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “We are honored to welcome the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalists who serve as an inspiration to future leaders. Like Jefferson, they have shaped our world for the better.”

Bowman and Ryan will present the medals, struck for the occasion, at a luncheon on April 12 in the Rotunda Dome Room at UVA. The medalists in Architecture and Law will each give a free public lecture at UVA and all medalists will be honored at a formal dinner at Monticello.

The complete schedule of events for Founder’s Day can be found here.

The Citizen Leadership medalist, Sylvia Earle, will also be the featured keynote speaker at Monticello’s commemoration of Jefferson’s 276th birthday on April 12 at 10 a.m. on the West Lawn of Monticello. The event is free and open to the public, and will also be livestreamed online.

This year’s medalists join a distinguished roster of past winners that includes architects Sir David Adjaye OBE, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond; seven former and current U.S. Supreme Court justices; former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher; former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch; special counsel, former FBI director and UVA alumnus Robert S. Mueller III; Gordon Moore, engineer, technologist and entrepreneur; Alice Waters, chef, food activist and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project; Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America; Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; and several former and current U.S. senators and representatives, including John Lewis and John Warner.

Media Contact

Jennifer Lyon

Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello