University of Virginia

Coordinates: 38°02′06″N 78°30′18″W / 38.035°N 78.505°W / 38.035; -78.505

The University of Virginia (UVA, U.Va. or Virginia), is a research university founded by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and located in Charlottesville, Virginia. UVA is known for its historic foundations, student-run honor code, and secret societies. UVA is labeled one of the original "Public Ivies," a publicly funded university considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

Its initial Board of Visitors included U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Monroe was the sitting President of the United States at the time of UVA's founding; Jefferson and Madison were the first two rectors. UVA was established in 1819, with its Academical Village and original courses of study conceived and designed by Jefferson. UNESCO designated UVA a World Heritage Site in 1987, an honor shared with nearby Monticello.

Since 1904, UVA has held membership in the Association of American Universities for research-focused institutions and was the first university of the American South to attain membership. The university is classified as Very High Research Activity in the Carnegie Classification and is considered its state's flagship research university by the AAU and the College Board. The university is affiliated with 7 Nobel Laureates, and has produced seven NASA astronauts, seven Marshall Scholars, four Churchill Scholars, 29 Truman Scholars, and 50 Rhodes Scholars, the most of any state-affiliated institution in the U.S.

While UVA is a public university supported in part by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the university receives far more funding from private sources than public. Students come to attend the university in Charlottesville from all 50 states and 147 countries. UVA additionally operates the College at Wise in the far southwestern corner of the state, and previously operated George Mason University and the University of Mary Washington as branch campuses until 1972.

Virginia's athletic teams are known as the Cavaliers, and since 1953 have competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference of Division I of the NCAA. After winning an ACC-record three NCAA titles (the College Cup in soccer, the College World Series in baseball, and the NCAA Tennis Championships) in a single academic year, UVA was awarded the Capital One Cup for the top overall men's sports program in the nation for 2015. The Cavaliers have won 31 national titles overall, including 23 in men's sports. Counting only NCAA sanctioned championships UVA has won a total of 23 NCAA titles, with 16 in men's sports, ranking first in the ACC.

    History

    Thomas Jefferson is the founder of the University of Virginia

    1800s

    In 1802, while serving as President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson wrote to artist Charles Willson Peale that his concept of the new university would be "on the most extensive and liberal scale that our circumstances would call for and our faculties meet," and that it might even attract talented students from "other states to come, and drink of the cup of knowledge". Virginia was already home to the College of William and Mary, but Jefferson lost all confidence in his alma mater, partly because of its religious nature – it required all its students to recite a catechism – and its stifling of the sciences. Jefferson had flourished under William and Mary professors William Small and George Wythe decades earlier, but the college was in a period of great decline and his concern became so dire by 1800 that he expressed to British chemist Joseph Priestley, "we have in that State, a college just well enough endowed to draw out the miserable existence to which a miserable constitution has doomed it." These words would ring true some seventy years later when William and Mary fell bankrupt after the Civil War and the Williamsburg college was shuttered completely in 1881, later being revived only in a limited capacity as a very small college for teachers until well into the twentieth century.

    In 1817, three Presidents (Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison) and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Marshall joined 24 other dignitaries at a meeting held in the Mountain Top Tavern at Rockfish Gap. After some deliberation, they selected nearby Charlottesville as the site of the new University of Virginia. Farmland just outside Charlottesville was purchased from James Monroe by the Board of Visitors as Central College. The school laid its first building's cornerstone late in that same year, and the Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the new university on January 25, 1819. John Hartwell Cocke collaborated with James Madison, Monroe, and Joseph Carrington Cabell to fulfill Jefferson's dream to establish the university. Cocke and Jefferson were appointed to the building committee to supervise the construction. The university's first classes met on March 7, 1825.

    In contrast to other universities of the day, at which one could study in either medicine, law, or divinity, the first students at the University of Virginia could study in one or several of eight independent schools – medicine, law, mathematics, chemistry, ancient languages, modern languages, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy. Another innovation of the new university was that higher education would be separated from religious doctrine. UVA had no divinity school, was established independently of any religious sect, and the Grounds were planned and centered upon a library, the Rotunda, rather than a church, distinguishing it from peer universities still primarily functioning as seminaries for one particular strain of Protestantism or another. Jefferson opined to philosopher Thomas Cooper that "a professorship of theology should have no place in our institution", and never has there been one. There were initially two degrees awarded by the university: Graduate, to a student who had completed the courses of one school; and Doctor to a graduate in more than one school who had shown research prowess.

    James Madison was the 2nd rector of the University of Virginia until 1836

    Jefferson was intimately involved in the university to the end, hosting Sunday dinners at his Monticello home for faculty and students until his death. So taken with the import of what he viewed the university's foundations and potential to be, and counting it amongst his greatest accomplishments, Jefferson insisted his grave mention only his status as author of the Declaration of Independence and Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia. Thus, he eschewed mention of his national accomplishments, such as the Louisiana Purchase, in favor of his role with the young university.

    In the year of Jefferson's death, poet Edgar Allan Poe enrolled at the university, where he excelled in Latin. The Raven Society, an organization named after Poe's most famous poem, continues to maintain 13 West Range, the room Poe inhabited during the single semester he attended the university. He left because of financial difficulties. The School of Engineering and Applied Science opened in 1836, making UVA the first comprehensive university to open an engineering school.

    Unlike the vast majority of peer colleges in the South, the university was kept open throughout the Civil War, an especially remarkable feat with its state seeing more bloodshed than any other and the near 100% conscription of the entire American South. After Jubal Early's total loss at the Battle of Waynesboro, Charlottesville was willingly surrendered to Union forces to avoid mass bloodshed and UVA faculty convinced George Armstrong Custer to preserve Jefferson's university. Though Union troops camped on the Lawn and damaged many of the Pavilions, Custer's men left four days later without bloodshed and the university was able to return to its educational mission. However, an extremely high number of officers of both Confederacy and Union were alumni. UVA produced 1,481 officers in the Confederate Army alone, including four major-generals, twenty-one brigadier-generals, and sixty-seven colonels from ten different states.John S. Mosby, the infamous "Gray Ghost" and commander of the lightning-fast 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry ranger unit, had also been a UVA student.

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