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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. 

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, Citizen Leadership, Global Innovation, and Law are the highest external honors bestowed by the University, which grants no honorary degrees. This year's recipients are:

  • Architecture: Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where he has taught since 1972. Frampton is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in modern architecture.
  • Law: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a graduate of Stanford, Oxford and Harvard Law School. In 1994, he was appointed a Supreme Court Justice by President Bill Clinton. He will retire from the court at the end of the 2021-22 term.
  • Citizen Leadership: Sherrie Rollins Westin, president of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street.” Westin leads efforts to serve vulnerable children through mass media and targeted initiatives in the United States and around the world.

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 Sherrie Rollins Westin, the Citizen Leadership medalist will be the featured keynote speaker at Monticello’s  commemoration of Jefferson’s 279th birthday on April 13 at 10 a.m. on the West Lawn of Monticello.

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. This year's recipient is Mary Hughes, who retired from UVA on January 23 of this year after more than two decades working as a University Landscape Architect.