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Commemorate the first 200 years.
Envision the next 200.
Celebrate UVA.

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2017 - 2019

Commemorate the first 200 years. Envision the next 200. Celebrate UVA.

Bicentennial Logo

When it comes to reflecting on our past, there’s no time like the present. Our Bicentennial offers us an opportunity to explore and commemorate our history, including previous milestones.

On October 6, 2017, we marked the 200th anniversary of the laying of the University’s cornerstone at Pavilion VII. The commemoration will continue through the 200th anniversary of the University’s charter on January 25, 2019. The Bicentennial will celebrate the achievements of the University’s first two centuries while articulating aspirations for its next two.

The design of the Bicentennial mark was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s original renderings for the Rotunda. Within the design are seminal references to architectural elements in the Academical Village: the serpentine walls can be seen in the curves of the number two; the profile of the Rotunda in the middle zero; and the aerial view of the Rotunda dome in the final zero. The University student body selected the mark by popular vote.


Sesquicentennial Celebration:
A Century and a Half of Innovation

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Sesquicentennial Celebration:
A Century and a Half of Innovation

Rotunda Ball in 1969

UVA celebrated its sesquicentennial with a year of academic, social, and cultural events in 1969. Renowned scholars from around the world came to Grounds to contribute ideas and meet with students. Lectures and symposiums covered such topics as “Creativity in an Automated Society” and “Allegiance and Hostility: Man’s Mammalian Heritage,” while a grand ball and fireworks display at the Rotunda attracted nearly 500 students and their guests.

Notable Performances:
The Hague Philharmonic
The Boston Symphony
Sly and the Family Stone
Joint performance of 37 high school bands from around the Commonwealth

Exhibits at the Rotunda:
University of Virginia: The Formative Years (1826-1861)
Jefferson and Music

The University Press published A Pictorial History of the University of Virginia by William B. O’Neal. It included more than 300 photographs and drawings from the University’s conception, the growth of the University from 1825 to 1861, the period of consolidation between the Civil War and the First World War, and finally the era of expansion leading up to 1969.

Ralph Cohen, now William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus at UVA, founded the New Literary History journal during the sesquicentennial. Cohen described it as a “collaborative journal, one in which it would be possible for scholars who presented particular views to have the views discussed, challenged and debated within the context of a single issue.” Still published quarterly, the New Literary Journal has an impressive international reputation, having received six prestigious awards from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

The day before Founder’s Day in 1969, the University dedicated a new building: Wilson Hall. Originally designated for the Department of English and now housing various classrooms, it is named for James Southall Wilson, an English professor and founder of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

New Programs:
The Board of Visitors established the Sesquicentennial Associates of the Center for Advanced Studies, which continues to support sabbatical work of faculty members. Fifteen professors were selected to participate the inaugural year (1969-70). They came from the departments of history, English, psychology, government and foreign affairs, civil engineering, mathematics, classics, philosophy, art, and economics, and the Schools of Law and Architecture.

Students organized a two-day “Counter Sesquicentennial.” President Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. was aware and supportive of their efforts. The event included a rally on the steps of the Rotunda to encourage listeners to write state legislators in support of increased diversity at the University. Other highlights include a Southern Folk Festival and a black tie non-banquet complete with bogus awards such as the Alexander Hamilton award to the person who has done the most to thwart Jeffersonian principles.

Centennial Celebration: “The Shadow of the Builder,”
Back to the Old Rotunda

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Centennial Celebration: “The Shadow of the Builder,” Back to the Old Rotunda

Shadow of the Builder poster

In conjunction with Final Exercises in 1921, the University of Virginia celebrated its centennial with four days of ceremonies, pageants, barbeque, a composite portrait, and fireworks. Speakers of national renown drew large crowds, including fashionable pundits of the day, as well as British and French Ambassadors. A film showing reenactments from throughout the University’s history screened in movie-houses across Virginia.

Notable Performances:
Frances O.J. Gaither’s play The Shadow of the Builder depicted Thomas Jefferson’s plans for his University. Into the story of a single day, the author incorporated the hopes, dreams, and struggles leading up to the opening of the University, as well as their fruition through a century. The show’s opening night featured an organ recital by Humphrey John Stewart, municipal organist of San Diego.

The University dedicated a plaque in the Rotunda in memory of the “sons of this university” who gave their lives in war.

History of the University of Virginia 1819-1919, by Philip Alexander Bruce, distinguished alumnus and historian, retold the University’s history in five volumes.

The Enchanted Years: A Book of Contemporary Verses was a collection of poems and verse by poets from Great Britain and America to the University of Virginia.

President Edwin A. Alderman announced that $1.3 million in fundraising had been raised to support the University in the new century.

A gift from alumnus Paul Goodloe McIntire established the Department of Commerce and Finance (now the McIntire School of Commerce).

Semi-Centennial Celebration:
Honoring the First Fifty Years

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Semi-Centennial Celebration: Honoring the First Fifty Years

Image of A Semi-Centennial Catalogue with Brief Biographical Sketches

To commemorate the University of Virginia’s first 50 years, alumni gathered for a celebratory lunch on July 1, 1875, at Hotel A on West Range.

Hotel A was known as “Massie’s Hotel” after a concessionaire who leased it in 1875; he provided students with meals, firewood, cleaning services, and a portable tub and hot water once a week for bathing.

University alumni also received a commemorative ribbon.

Maximilian Schele de Vere, Professor of Modern Languages, compiled Students of the University of Virginia: A Semi-Centennial Catalogue with Brief Biographical Sketches. Captain Joseph Van Holt Nash published the work.

The book was intended to be published in 1875, the 50th anniversary of the arrival of students on The Grounds. Professor Schele de Vere lived on the Lawn for 50 years and compiled the list based upon information collected in questionnaires sent to former students or their survivors. Publisher Captain Joseph Van Holt Nash, who attended UVA between 1853 and 1855, spent three years completing his work. The finished book was published in 1878.

From Central College to
the University of Virginia

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From Central College to the University of Virginia

Pavilion VII sketch

Construction of the Academical Village began on October 6. 1817, with the Central College cornerstone laying at Pavilion VII. Former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison along with current President Monroe attended the ceremony with the other members of the Central College Board of Visitors. Local freemasons from the Widow’s Sons’ Lodge No. 60 and from Charlottesville Lodge No. 90 performed a traditional ceremony to lay the foundation of Pavilion VII. This day marks the first “stake in the ground” for what would become the University of Virginia.

It was more than 35 years earlier, in 1779, that Thomas Jefferson first drafted his framework for public education in “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” which proposed state supported multi-level educational system for all citizens (white men who had been in residence for two years or more) culminating in a state university. In his 1806 State of the Union address, Jefferson argued that one of the bedrock principles of democracy was an educated citizenry and that the children of the poor should be educated at the common expense.

In 1810, Jefferson first used the phrase “Academical Village” to describe his concept of students and professors living and learning together. In 1814, he first sketched the design of what would become the University of Virginia. In 1816, the Virginia General Assembly first established a charter for a Central College to be built in the County of Albemarle.

In August of 1818, a meeting at the Rockfish Gap Tavern in Afton, Virginia, known as the Rockfish Gap Commission officially established Charlottesville as the suggested site for the University of Virginia over Staunton and Lexington. On January 25, 1819, a vote in the General Assembly granted Central College the state charter to become the University of Virginia. After the completion of construction and faculty recruitment, the University opened its doors to the first students in March 1825.