UVA, Monticello Announce Recipients of 2020 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals

up close of the Thomas Jefferson coins in square wooden boxes lined on a table

Each year, UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello present the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals to global leaders in many different fields. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

The University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello will present their highest honors, the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in Architecture, Citizen Leadership, Global Innovation, and Law, as follows:

  • Architecture: Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, co-founders of the multidisciplinary design practice, WEISS/MANFREDI, known for redefining the relationships between landscape, architecture, infrastructure and art through their award-winning projects. MORE
  • Citizen Leadership: Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation and a leader in global development. Shah was the USAID administrator during President Barack Obama’s administration and has deep experience in business, government and philanthropy. MORE
  • Global Innovation: Ted Turner, a media pioneer and philanthropist working to promote sustainability, environmental initiatives and charitable efforts around the world. MORE 
  • Law: Sonia Sotomayor, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 after a distinguished legal career. 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 medals are typically presented in observance of Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, during celebrations including a formal dinner at Monticello, a medal presentation at UVA and public talks by the medalists. However, due to ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and limitations on events and travel, this year’s in-person events have been cancelled and the medals will be given in absentia.

“I was very much looking forward to welcoming these extraordinary men and women to Grounds, but the virus had other ideas,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “Still, I hope they will accept these medals as a token of our admiration and gratitude. Together, they have devoted their lives to areas of study and practice that Thomas Jefferson cared deeply about. And they have done so with an eye toward improvement – recognizing that, while our pursuit of high ideals will always be imperfect, hope lies in the striving.”

The medals are presented annually by the president of the University and the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that owns and operates Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

“As Thomas Jefferson once counseled, we must ‘do to our fellow-men the most good in our power,’” Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, said. “This year’s medalists embody the spirit of this charge through their selfless, determined work. We are disappointed that we cannot award these honors in person, but no less pleased to recognize their tireless efforts to create a better future.”

This year’s medalists join a distinguished roster of past winners that includes architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito, and Sir David Adjaye OBE; 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; oceanographer and author Sylvia Earle; Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; the Hon. Carlton W. Reeves, second African American appointed to a federal judgeship in Mississippi; and several former and current U.S. senators and representatives, including Rep. John Lewis and Sen. John Warner.

Media Contact

Jennifer Lyon

Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello