Founder's Day

Founder's Day

April 13, 2017

This institution [the University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind."
–Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, has been celebrated at the University of Virginia since the University’s first academic session in 1819. Locally, the celebration is known as Founder’s Day.

On Founder’s Day, UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the private, nonprofit corporation that has owned and operated Monticello since 1923, join together to present the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals to recognize achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president, excelled and held in high regard. 

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in Architecture, Law, Citizen Leadership, and Global Innovation are the highest external honors bestowed by the University, which grants no honorary degrees. This year’s recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals are:

  • Medal in Architecture: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, Irish founders and directors of Grafton Architects, renowned for their creative and visionary academic and educational buildings.
  • Medal in Law: Loretta Lynch, the first African-American female attorney general in U.S. history, known for her impressive career prosecuting cases involving narcotics, violent crimes, public corruption and civil rights.
  • Medal in Citizen Leadership: Alice Waters, founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, chef, author, food activist, founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California, who has championed local, sustainable agriculture for more than four decades. 
  • Medal in Global Innovation: N.R. Narayana Murthy, Indian entrepreneur and visionary leader who founded and grew Infosys into an information technology powerhouse through the design and implementation of the global delivery model for outsourcing services.

In addition to a formal dinner at Monticello, the medalists will be recognized at a luncheon in the Dome Room of the Rotunda. It is at this luncheon where Teresa Sullivan, president of UVA, and Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, will present this year's medalists with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals.

While on Grounds, the medalists in Architecture, Law, Citizen Leadership, and Global Innovation will also give a free public lecture in their field of expertise (schedule).The Citizen Leadership medalist, Alice Waters, will also be the featured keynote speaker at Monticello’s commemoration of Jefferson’s 274th birthday at 10 a.m. on April 13. More information about the celebration, which is free and open to the public, can be found on Monticello's website.

Additionally, on Founder’s Day, the University plants a tree in celebration of a member of the UVA community who has made significant, lasting contributions to University life. This name of this year’s recipient will be announced in March 2017. 

The UVA Today article announcing this year's recipients can be found here.