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Founder's Day

Founder's Day

Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, has been celebrated at the University of Virginia since the University’s first academic session. Locally, the celebration is known as Founder’s Day. Because April 13 falls on a Saturday this year, Founder's Day will be celebrated on Friday, April 12, 2019.

On Founder’s Day, UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello 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 are:

  • Architecture: Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, co-founders of the Tokyo-based firm SANAA whose major projects span the globe from Tokyo to Paris and Milan;

  • Citizen Leadership: Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress;

  • Law: Carlton W. Reeves, a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi who has ruled in a number of important cases involving equality and civil rights. Reeves is the second African American appointed to a federal judgeship in Mississippi, following a nomination by President Barack Obama in 2010.

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 Jim Ryan, president of UVA, and Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, will present this year's recipients with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals. While on Grounds, each medalist will give a free public lecture in their field of expertise. Additionally, the Sylvia Earle, the Citizen Leadership medalist will be the featured keynote speaker at Monticello’s commemoration of Jefferson’s 276th birthday on Friday, April 12 starting at 9:45 a.m. More information about the celebration is available on Monticello's website.

Lastly, 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. The 2019 recipient will be announced in mid-March.