University of Virginia

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Seal of the University of Virginia

Established 1819
Founder Thomas Jefferson
School type Public University
President John T. Casteen III
Location Charlottesville, Va., USA
Enrollment 13,000 undergraduate
  6,200 graduate
Faculty 2,015
Endowment US $2.79 billion
Campus World Heritage Site
1,682 acres
Mascot Cavaliers
Division I
23 varsity teams
Signature of Thomas Jefferson

The University of Virginia (also referred to as U.Va. or simply Virginia for short) is a research university in Charlottesville, Virginia established by founding father and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. It was the first college campus worldwide to be designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. A public institution, it attracts top students and academians – described in the 2006 edition of America's Best Colleges as "chock full of academic stars who turn down private schools like Duke, Princeton, and Cornell for, they say, a better value." Although, in reality, the few students admitted to Princeton, Cornell or Duke who end up selecting UVA, do so largely for financial reasons.


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia's inaugural banquet was held in 1824 in the presence of James Madison and the Marquis de Lafayette, and its first classes met in March 1825. At this time, it became the first university to offer students a full choice of elective courses, rather than a fixed schedule determined by school administrators. Jefferson explained: "This institution of my native state, the hobby of my old age, will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation."

View of the South Lawn from the steps of the Rotunda.

His most innovative concept for the new university was based on a daring vision of higher education being completely separated from religious doctrine. One of the largest construction projects in North America up to that time, the new Grounds were centered upon a library (then housed in the Rotunda) rather than a church — distinguishing it from its peer universities in the English-speaking world, nearly all of which were dominated by one religious movement or another. Jefferson hosted Sunday dinners at his Monticello home for faculty and students, including Edgar Allan Poe, until his death. Some time before this occurred, Jefferson insisted that his grave bear the words FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA as one of three accomplishments during his lifetime by which he wished to be remembered.

Many of America's political leaders have gravitated to the University of Virginia over the years. In 1826, fourth U.S. President James Madison became Rector of the University, at the same time America's fifth President James Monroe made his home on the Grounds and was a member of the Board of Visitors. 28th U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attended for one year the University of Virginia Law School, the same institution from which graduated Robert Kennedy, his son Robert Kennedy Jr., and his brother, Ted Kennedy. Other alumni in leadership roles have included three United States Supreme Court Justices, two Surgeons General, a Speaker of the House, a Senate Majority Leader, numerous Senators and Representatives, Secretaries of State, Defense, Energy, Transportation, Treasury, and the Navy, and the Secretary General of both NATO and the Council of the European Union.

Unlike many other southern schools, the University of Virginia was kept open throughout the American Civil War. This was especially remarkable because Virginia was the site of more battles during this war than any other state. In March 1865, Union General George Armstrong Custer marched troops into Charlottesville, where faculty and community leaders convinced him to spare the university. Union troops camped on the Lawn and damaged many of the Pavilions, but left four days later without bloodshed. The University was then able to return to its educational routines.

Father of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson was the first and only President of the United States to found an institution of higher learning.

Jefferson, ever the skeptic of central authority and bureaucracy, had originally decided the University of Virginia would have no President. Rather, this power was shared by a Rector and a Board of Visitors. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, it became obvious that this arrangement was incapable of adequately handling the many administrative and fundraising tasks that had become necessary and unavoidable in the interworkings of a modern university.

In 1904, Edwin Alderman became the first President of the University of Virginia. In this position he embarked on a number of reforms for both the university and the state of Virginia's public educational systems in general. A reform specific to the University of Virginia was one of the first school-sponsored financial aid programs in all of higher learning and, though primitive by today's standards, it included a loan provision for those "needy young men" who were unable to pay. Initially controversial and opposed by many at what had become a very traditional school, Alderman's progressive ideas stood the test of time and he today remains the longest-serving President of the university's history, having served for nearly thirty years until his death in 1931. Alderman Library, a popular landmark among today's students, is his namesake.

James Madison served as the 2nd Rector of the University of Virginia until his death (18261836).

"Public Ivy" is purportedly a term that was first coined to describe the University of Virginia. The term is attributed to Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner at around the time the Ivy League was forming in the northeast. Some at the time thought the University should privatize a few of its schools and attempt to join them. Later, in 1957, Faulkner became writer-in-residence at the University, keeping open office hours until his death in 1962.

Though all-white until 1950 and generally all-male until 1970 (women had for many years previous attended the education and nursing schools), the University of Virginia is now much more diverse. The makeup of the Class of 2008 was 10% African-American, 14% Asian-American, 5% Hispanic, 5% Other and 5% International. Fewer than two-thirds identified themselves as being white. Eighty-five percent of the University's entering Class of 2009 were ranked in the top 10% of their graduating high school class and 56% were female.

In 2004, the University of Virginia became the first public university in the United States to receive more of its funding from private sources than from the state with which it is associated. Thanks to a Charter initiative that recently passed the Virginia legislature, the University — and any other public universities in the state that choose to do so — will have greater autonomy over its own affairs.

In the same year, the 100th anniversary of Alderman becoming President, the University announced the AccessUVa financial aid program. This innovative program, one of the first of its kind, guaranteed that U.Va. will meet 100% of a student's demonstrated need. It also provided low-income students (up to 200% of the poverty line – at the time about $37,700 for a family of four) with full grants to cover all of their educational needs. The program was an immediate success, and by 2005 was being studied and duplicated by other top public universities.


Gutzon_Borglum sculpture commemorating James Rogers McConnell, U.Va. alum and volunteer World War I aviator for France, shot down before the U.S. joined the war effort.

The University of Virginia stands on land purchased in 1788 by a Revolutionary War veteran, James Monroe, who would decades later become the fifth President of the United States. The Charlottesville farmland was purchased by the Board of Visitors of what was then Central College in 1817, while Monroe was beginning his first year in the White House. Guided by Thomas Jefferson, the Commonwealth of Virginia would charter the new university on January 25, 1819.

Jefferson's original architectural design is centered around the Lawn, a grand, terraced green-space surrounded by residential and academic buildings. He called it the "Academical Village", and that name remains in use today to describe both the specific area of the Lawn and the larger university surrounding it. The principal building of the design, the Rotunda, is at the north end of the Lawn, and stands as one of the founder's greatest architectural achievements. It is half the height of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda were the model for many similar designs of "centralized green areas" at universities across the country (most notably those at Duke University in 1892, Johns Hopkins University in 1902, Rice University in 1910, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1915, and Killian Court at MIT in 1916 — the last of which was coincidentally founded by William Barton Rogers, a former professor at U.Va.) Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., a scholar at the University of Virginia, has written the definitive book on the original academic buildings at the university. [1]

Pantheon elevation by Antoine Desgodetz, Les edifices antiques de Rome, Paris, 1779.
The Great Rotunda Fire, 1895.
File:UVa Rotunda.jpg
The Rotunda today.
The Academical Village in winter.

Flanking both sides of the Rotunda and extending down the length of the Lawn are 10 "pavilions" interspersed with student rooms. Each has its own classical architectural style, as well as its own walled garden separated by uniquely Jeffersonian "serpentine walls."

On October 27, 1895, the Rotunda burned to the ground with the unfortunate help of overzealous faculty member William "Reddy" Echols, who attempted to save it by throwing roughly 100 pounds (45 kg) of dynamite into the main fire in the hopes that the blast would separate the burning Annex from the main building. His last-ditch effort ultimately failed. (Perhaps ironically, one of the University's main honors student programs is named for him.) University officials swiftly approached celebrity architect Stanford White to rebuild the Rotunda. White took the charge further, redesigning the Rotunda interior — making it two floors instead of three, adding three buildings to the foot of the Lawn, and designing a President's House. He did omit rebuilding the Rotunda Annex, which had been built in 1853 to house classroom space. The classes formely occupying the annex were now moved to the South Lawn in White's new buildings.

On June 10, 1940, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to the University's Memorial Gymnasium to watch his son Franklin Jr. graduate, and to give the commencement address. Instead, there "in this University founded by the first great American teacher of democracy" he made his impromptu "Stab in the Back" speech denouncing the act of Italy joining beside Nazi Germany to invade France on that day. (Graduation ceremonies are traditionally held on the Lawn, but rain had forced a move to "Mem Gym" for the Class of 1940.)

Nearly two decades later, in 1958, Senator John F. Kennedy visited and spoke in the same space with brothers Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, the latter of which was managing JFK's '58 Senatorial re-election campaign from his dormitory at the University of Virginia.

In concert with the United States Bicentennial in 1976, Stanford White's changes to the Rotunda were removed and the building was returned to Jefferson's original design. Renovated according to the original plans, a three-story Rotunda opened on Jefferson's birthday, April 13, 1976. To commemorate the anniversary of America's independence, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II strolled the Lawn and lunched in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, one of five American sites she publicly visited.

The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, among many of humanity's spiritual leaders, graced the Lawn with their presence in 1998 while attending the University's Nobel Laureates Conference.

In 2001, John Kluge donated 7,378 acres (30 km²) of additional lands to the University. Kluge wished for the core of the land to be developed by the university, and the surrounding land to be sold to fund an endowment supporting the core. A large part of the gift was soon sold to musician Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, to be utilized in an organic farming project. It is unknown what the University will do with its "core" portion of the land.

In the near future, the Lawn will change considerably. The McIntire School of Commerce will move to a new building adjoining Rouss Hall and the College's Economics department. At this time, Monroe Hall (current home of the McIntire School) will become part of the College. New Cabell Hall will be torn down, and in its place will be a technology-equipped classroom space that will straddle both sides of Jefferson Park Avenue. The Lawn will then extend to the space above where today is a faculty parking lot across the street.

Being chosen for residence in one of the 54 Lawn rooms is considered prestigious. All undergraduate students who will graduate at the end of their year of residency are eligible to apply to live in one of the 47 rooms open to the general student body. Applications – which vary from year to year, but generally include a résumé, personal statement and responses to several questions – are reviewed by a reading committee and the top vote-getters are offered Lawn residency, with several alternates also given notice of potential residency. Five of the remaining seven rooms are "endowed" by organizations on Grounds: the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society (room 7), Trigon Engineering Society (room 17), Residence Staff (room 26), the Honor Committee (room 37) and the Kappa Sigma fraternity (room 46). These groups have their own selection process for choosing who will live in their Lawn room although the Vice President for Student Affairs renders final approval. The Gus Blagden "Good Guy" room (15) resident is chosen from a host of nominees and does not necessarily belonging to any particular group. Residency in the John K. Crispell memorial pre-med room (2) is usually granted to an outstanding pre-med student from among the group of 47 offered regular Lawn residency.

Residence in the ten pavilions is also desirable. The University's Board of Visitors has final approval over which faculty members may live in a pavilion. Pavilion residency is typically offered as a three- or five-year contract with the option to renew. Pavilion residents are expected to interact with their younger "Lawnie" neighbors, as Jefferson intended.

The Grounds of the University of Virginia, together with Monticello, are World Heritage Site #442. This honor is bestowed on no other American college campus and is shared with only three other man-made sites in the United States: the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and Pueblo de Taos.


First in 1993, and again 8 times since, U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Virginia as America's #1 public university. In the most recent (2006) edition, the undergraduate programs at U.Va. rank #2 out of roughly 200 doctorate-granting public universities in the United States. The graduate programs fare even better, regularly surpassing not only other public universities, but also many of the most elite among private universities, including some of those in the Ivy League.

The University of Virginia possesses a distinguished faculty, including a Nobel Laureate, 25 Guggenheim fellows, 26 Fulbright fellows, six National Endowment for the Humanities fellows, two Presidential Young Investigator Award winners, three Sloan award winners. and three Packard Foundation Award winners. The University is known for its schools of Architecture, Business, Commerce, Law, Medicine, and Education, as well as for its departments of Art History, Astronomy, Astronomy-Physics, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, English, Finance, French, German, History, Management Information Systems, Physics, Politics, Psychology, Religious Studies, Spanish/Portuguese, and Systems Engineering. U.Va. hosts the National Radio Astronomy Observatory headquarters and is one of two American members of Universitas 21 (the other being the University of California), an international consortium of research-intensive universities.

The University of Virginia Library System holds 5,000,000 volumes. Its Electronic Text Center, established in 1992, has put 70,000 books online as well as 350,000 images that go with them. No university in the world can claim more electronic texts. These e-texts are open to anyone, and that is one reason that the electronic collection gets ten times as many visitors per day as do the physical libraries at the University.

File:Homer at UVa.jpg
Statue of Homer on the Lawn.

The University's faculty were particularly instrumental in the evolution of Internet networking and connectivity. Physics professor James McCarthy was the lead academic liaison to the government in the establishment of Suranet, and the University also participated in Arpanet and now participates in Internet2 and Abilene. In March of 1986, the University's website became the first contribution to the World Wide Web originating from the state of Virginia.

The University of Virginia offers numerous special scholars programs. The Echols and Rodman Scholars programs include 6-7% of undergraduate students and offer these students the "keys" to the university, in the form of advisors, separate first-year dorms, and priority course registration. Echols Scholars are also freed from the area requirements of the basic liberal arts curriculum. Perhaps the most selective program is the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, which offers full 4-year scholarships based on rigorous regional, international, and at-large competitions. Students are nominated by their respective high schools, and then have to pass various interviews before being invited, for a weekend, to participate in various tests of character, aptitude, and general suitability. Approximately 3% of those nominated are successful, making the scholarship one of the most competitive in the nation.


Pavilion Gardens: the famous serpentine walls specified by Jefferson, used fewer bricks and provided microclimates for marginally hardy plants.

Colleges and schools


The University of Virginia's sports teams are called the Cavaliers. The mascot is a mounted swordsman referring to the time when Virginia earned its nickname, the "Old Dominion." The Commonwealth was a hotbed of persons loyal to the English crown, called cavaliers in the days of the English Civil War and Interregnum. An unofficial moniker, the Wahoos, or 'Hoos for short, based on the University's rallying cry "Wah-hoo-wah!" is also commonly used. Though originally only used by the student body, both terms — Wahoos and Hoos — have come into wide use by the media as well.

The school colors, adopted in 1888, are orange and navy blue. The athletic teams had previously worn silver and cardinal red, but those colors did not show up very well on dirty football fields as the school was sporting its first team. A mass meeting of the student body was called, and a star player showed up wearing a navy blue and orange scarf he had brought back from a University of Oxford summer boating expedition. The colors were chosen when another student pulled the scarf from the player's neck, waved it to the crowd and yelled: "How will this do?" (Exactly 100 years later in 1988, perhaps ironically, Oxford named their own American football club the "Cavaliers", and soon after the Virginia team adopted its "curved sabres" logo in 1994, the Oxford team followed suit.)

Virginia run to the Final Four.

When boxing was a major collegiate sport, Virginia's teams boxed in Memorial Gymnasium and went undefeated on a six-year run between 1932 and 1937, also winning national championships in 1938 and 1939.

Virginia's athletic teams have participated in the Atlantic Coast Conference since the league's first year in 1953. Its men's basketball team has five times been part of the NCAA Elite Eight (1981, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1995), twice advancing to the Final Four (1981 and 1984). The Virginia Cavaliers football team has twice been honored as ACC Co-Champions (1989 with Duke, and 1995 with FSU). Women's cross country won national titles in 1981 and 1982. The soccer and lacrosse programs have both been tremendously successful. The Virginia men's soccer team has won five national championships, four consecutively (1989, 19911994). The lacrosse teams have won three national titles each. Men's lacrosse won national championships in 1972, 1999, and 2003; the women's lacrosse team won national titles in 1991, 1993, and 2004.

Funding from benefactor Carl Smith created the foundation for the Cavalier Marching Band, which was introduced in 2004 and has grown to 230 pieces. This replaced the controversial Virginia Pep Band in its official capacity at athletic events.

Scott Stadium sits across from the first-year dorms along Alderman Road, and it is home to the University of Virginia's most popular sport: football. Students, fans, and alumni generally cover themselves in orange clothing for the games. The Cavaliers share the South's Oldest Rivalry with UNC and the schools have played 109 times, including every year since 1919. In a somewhat less historical but more bitterly contested rivalry, the team faces off with in-state foe Virginia Tech annually for the Commonwealth Cup, given since 1999 to the winner of this game played 85 times and each year since 1970.

Virginia teams have made Klöckner Stadium hallowed ground for collegiate soccer.

Basketball is also very popular at the University. At its recent height in the 1980s, the men's basketball team was better than perennial power Duke and second only to UNC in that decade's cumulative ACC standings. The 1990s and 2000s have seen a bit of a slide for the program to the middle of the pack in the conference, but U.Va. is currently building a new facility, John Paul Jones Arena (construction webcam), to replace the second-smallest — and for many years the smallest — facility in the ACC, University Hall. The new arena is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2006.

Klöckner Stadium is home to several great programs, including Virginia men's soccer. More years than not, the University of Virginia fields one of the best squads in the country, and the program has, by far, the most successful history in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Since ACC Tournament play began in 1987, Virginia has played in 14 out of 18 ACC Tournament championship matches, wining nine ACC titles (including 2003 and 2004), to go with their five NCAA Tournament championships. The man who built the U.Va. program, Bruce Arena, compiled an amazing 295-58-32 record before leaving in 1995 to coach D.C. United to their first two MLS championship seasons, and later the U.S. National Soccer Team to their best World Cup showing since 1930.

Student life

The motto around Grounds is "work hard, play hard". Students at the University take this motto seriously, and they combine their academic pursuits with a lot of exercise and partying (not necessarily at the same time). It is often joked that "everyone is a runner" at the University, and many students can be seen on a run in any season of the year. Indeed, the 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek guide "How to Get into College", which lists twenty-five universities its editors consider notable in some respect, recognizes U.Va. for being the "Hottest for Fitness", mentioning that 94% of the students take advantage of at least one of the four recreation centers. Rugby Road and the fraternities are home to much of the social scene, as are private apartments along Jefferson Park Avenue and around the outskirts of the University.

Student life at U.Va. is marked by a number of unique traditions that set the University apart from other American colleges. The campus of the University is referred to as "the Grounds," and seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen are instead called Fourth-, Third-, Second- and First-Years. A number of secret societies, most notably the Seven Society, Z Society, and IMP Society, have operated at the University for decades, leaving their painted marks on university buildings. Other significant secret societies include the Eli Banana Ribbon Society, the University's oldest secret society, the T.I.L.K.A's, the Purple Shadows, who commemorate Jefferson's birthday shortly after dawn on the Lawn each April 13, and the Rotunda Burning Society, who commemorate the Great Rotunda Fire. Not all the secret societies keep their identities unknown (see photo at left), but even those who don't hide themselves generally keep most of their good works and activities from the public eye.

A positive attitude regarding the libraries exists among the students. A national publication's survey recently revealed that U.Va.'s students give their library system higher marks than students at any other school in the United States. The best-known library is Alderman Library for the humanities and social sciences, which contains seemingly endless stacks with many useful study nooks hidden among them. U.Va.'s renowned Small Special Collections Library feature one of the premier collections of American Literature in the country. Clemons Library, next to Alderman, is a popular study spot. Hundreds of students can be found gathered on its various quiet floors on any given night. Clark Hall, home of the Science & Engineering Library, also gets high marks.

Relative to many other public and private universities, the University of Virginia has minimal red tape, paperwork, or bureaucracy. U.Va.'s ratio of staff-to-faculty is kept low, allowing for an efficient allocation of funds directly into paying faculty and educating its students. It is also a frequent observation that the faculty are very approachable and enjoy interacting with their students. Several of the faculty live on Grounds, either on the Lawn in the various Pavilions or as fellows at one of three residential colleges (Brown College at Monroe Hill, Hereford College, and the International Residential College).

Lambeth Field, home of the "Colonnades".

Volunteerism at the University is centered around Madison House, which offers numerous opportunities to serve others. Among the numerous programs offered are Tutoring, Housing Improvement, and Hoos Against Hunger (who give leftover food made at restaurants to Charlottesville's homeless rather than allowing it to be thrown away).

The ideas of student governance, left from the school's Jeffersonian roots, still hold strong at the University. One aspect of this is U.Va.'s Honor System, originated in 1842 and was the first to be administered by student elected officials, with student juries. In this "single sanction" system, the penalty for lying, cheating, or stealing is expulsion from the University. The Honor System here was the model for similar systems in place at West Point, Washington & Lee, and other American universities adhering to systems of honor. A well-known verse written by a student over 100 years ago (James Hay Jr. in 1903) ends "I have worn the Honors of Honor; I graduated from Virginia."

Distinguished Alumni

Main article: List of University of Virginia people.

Among the people who have attended or graduated from the University of Virginia are Edgar Allan Poe, Woodrow Wilson, members of the Kennedy family, several Supreme Court Justices, three Astronauts, the President of NASDAQ, and leaders of the political and economic spheres of the United States and the European Union. Those involved in the sciences have helped to cure yellow fever, and to "crack the code" of DNA.

External links

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