UVA, Monticello Honor Three for Efforts in Citizenship, Architecture and Law

April 12, 2024 By Bryan McKenzie, bkm4s@virginia.edu Bryan McKenzie, bkm4s@virginia.edu

The sun shone brightly outside the University of Virginia’s Rotunda Friday afternoon, but on the inside, it was the stars of architecture, law and citizenship who shined.

The University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation bestowed the organizations’ highest honors, the Thomas Jefferson Medals, on three individuals for outstanding contributions in their professions and their communities.

UVA President Jim Ryan opened the program on what is known at the University as Founder’s Day, commemorating Jefferson’s 281st birthday on April 13. He noted that the University does not bestow honorary degrees; thus the medals are the highest external honors it awards.

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“First, it is an opportunity to reflect on Jefferson’s legacy, and the mission and ideals that UVA has worked to uphold for more than 200 years,” Ryan told a Dome Room audience of faculty, deans and dignitaries, including former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

“And it’s an opportunity to ask ourselves what more we can do to live out the University’s mission as Jefferson visualized, which included, importantly, preparing leaders to sustain a thriving democracy – a mission that is as important today as ever,” Ryan said.

A row of Founders medals

UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation award the Thomas Jefferson Medals to those who excel in law, architecture and citizen leadership. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Thomas Jefferson Medals are bestowed upon honorees in endeavors in which Jefferson excelled and held in high regard: architecture, law and citizen leadership.

The Jefferson Medalist in Law is Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, the first African American to serve on the U.S. Fourth District Court of Appeals and the first to serve as a chief justice. He is also the first judge to be appointed to a federal appellate court by two presidents of different political parties, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 2000 and President George W. Bush, a Republican, in 2001.

Medal winners stand together in Dome Room

Thomas Jefferson Medal winners honored at Friday’s Dome Room luncheon were, from left, Architecture Medalist Kate Orff, Law Medalist Judge Roger L. Gregory and Citizen Leadership Medalist Julieanna L. Richardson. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

After graduating from the University of Michigan with his law degree, Gregory founded a law firm in Richmond with Wilder.

The Jefferson Medalist in Architecture is Kate Orff, a 1993 UVA graduate and the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design studio firm in New York that employs more than 80 people.

She is perhaps best known for creating the Living Breakwaters on the south shore of Staten Island, a project envisioned after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area. The idea was to create a shoreline more resilient to storms and their increasing intensity. Living Breakwaters and her firm’s other coastal projects have become frequently cited models for designing landscapes in areas most affected by climate change.

An above view of the founders luncheon

UVA officials, deans and faculty members dined with honored guests and the Jefferson Medalists in the Dome Room on Friday. The celebration is part of the annual Founder’s Days festivities. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

The Jefferson Medalist in Citizen Leadership is Julieanna L. Richardson, the founder and president of a national nonprofit educational institution called The HistoryMakers that has curated, presented and preserved on video the histories of thousands of African Americans.

The Chicago-based organization describes itself as “the digital repository for the Black experience.”

Media Contact

Bryan McKenzie

Assistant Editor, UVA Today Office of University Communications