UVA, Monticello Announce Recipients of 2023 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals

February 28, 2023 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

Three more luminaries are joining an esteemed group of people who have received the highest honors bestowed by the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals.

Tuesday, UVA and the foundation, which owns and operates Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, announced winners in the areas of architecture, citizen leadership and law.

Andrew Freear is the 2023 recipient of the Medal in Architecture. The Wiatt Professor runs Auburn University’s Rural Studio, which is based in Newbern, Alabama, a town with a population of 187 people. His students have designed and constructed more than 220 community buildings, homes, and parks in the under-resourced community.

This year’s Medal in Citizen Leadership will go to Jason Rezaian, an award-winning writer and journalist for The Washington Post. A first-generation American of Iranian origin, Rezaian became The Post’s Tehran bureau chief in 2012. In 2014, he was arrested on unsubstantiated charges of espionage. Freed after 544 days of imprisonment, Rezaian has since used his platform to fight for the freedom and the liberty of others, championing the stories of other journalists imprisoned for doing their jobs and fellow Americans held hostage abroad solely because of their citizenship. His reporting continues to elevate the stories both of Iranians and those around the globe.

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Portraits of Andrew Freear, left, Jason Rezaian, center, and Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, right
This year’s medalists are architect Andrew Freear, award-winning Washington Post writer Jason Rezaian, and LGBTQ rights lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju. (Photo credits: Timothy Hursley, contributed, UVA School of Law.)

Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju are the 2023 recipients of the Medal in Law. In 2018, they won a landmark case before India’s Supreme Court that struck down a 157-year-old law that made gay sex illegal. The pair, who have become heroes of the LGBTQ community in their country, are currently spearheading a marriage equality case to be heard by the Supreme Court of India this spring.

Medals to be Awarded April 13 at UVA

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 a highlight of Founder’s Day, and this year’s recipients reflect the spirit and service mission of our founder,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “From an architect whose innovations better serve our communities, to a writer and journalist whose courage has inspired us all, to practitioners of the law who advocate for freedom and justice in the world’s largest democracy, these deserving winners have furthered human progress and exemplify the ideals of this University.”

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 Jefferson’s home, Monticello. This year’s celebrations mark the 280th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth.

“Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1803 that ‘some … are born for the public. Nature by fitting them for the service of the human race on a broad scale, has stamped them with the evidences of her destination and their duty,’” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “This year’s medalists may hail from different parts of the globe and work toward different objectives, yet they share this common sense of duty and devotion to principled leadership. We are honored to recognize their significant accomplishments.”

Bowman and Ryan will present the medals, struck for the occasion, at a luncheon on April 13 in the Rotunda Dome Room at UVA. Medalists will be honored at a formal dinner at Monticello the prior evening.

94% On-Time Graduation Rate Pleases 100% of Parents, to be great and good in all we do
94% On-Time Graduation Rate Pleases 100% of Parents, to be great and good in all we do

Guruswamy and Katju, the Law medalists, will give a public talk April 12 at 1 p.m. at the School of Law’s Caplin Pavilion.

The Citizen Leadership medalist, Rezaian, will be the featured keynote speaker at Monticello’s commemoration of Jefferson’s birthday on April 13 at 10 a.m. on the West Lawn of Monticello. Freear, the Architecture medalist, will give a talk later that day, at 4 p.m., in the auditorium in Old Cabell Hall.

All of the talks are free and open to the public.

The complete schedule of Founder’s Day events and details about how to attend the talks in person or view their livestreams can be found on the Founder’s Day Page of UVA’s Major Events website.

This year’s medalists join a distinguished roster of past winners that includes architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Toyo Ito, Zaha Hadid, Francis Kéré, and Sir David Adjaye OBE; eight 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 Honorable Carlton W. Reeves, second African American appointed to a federal judgeship in Mississippi; and several former and current U.S. senators and representatives, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis and the late U.S. Sen. John Warner, also a former secretary of the Navy.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications