By: Caroline Newman | University Communications
On Oct. 6, 1817, three U.S. presidents – Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe – gathered for the laying of the cornerstone of the first building of the University of Virginia.
Nearly 200 years later, UVA’s Class of 2017 is preparing to process down the Lawn for their own special ceremony, striding past the spot where the three Founding Fathers assembled at what is now Pavilion VII. Students graduating in May will be marking an important moment in their lives, and an important moment in the life of the University, as UVA prepares to officially launch its bicentennial commemoration on Oct. 6. The commemoration period will continue through the bicentennial of the University’s charter on Jan. 25, 2019 and the graduation of the first alumni of UVA’s third century in May 2019.
To honor this special moment in UVA’s history, members of the graduating classes of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 will don graduation gowns featuring the bicentennial mark. UVA’s Office of University Communications coordinated the effort, along with University Advancement, to design the mark with the assistance of several UVA community members supporting bicentennial preparations. Last fall, the UVA student body selected the final design by popular vote. For information on bicentennial planning, visit: bicentennial.virginia.edu.
“Students chose the design that we will be using, from among multiple options,” said fourth-year student Emily Lodge, who served as Student Council president during the 2016-17 academic year. “The bicentennial is an exciting event and this insignia both represents UVA’s past and, as it goes onto the gowns of graduating students, looks forward to the future.”
The commemorative mark, which will also be available for use in bicentennial-themed programming, events and other celebratory activities, was inspired by Jefferson’s original renderings for the Rotunda and designed to reflect UVA’s unique history, vibrancy and culture.
It incorporates several references to the famous architecture of the Academical Village, including the serpentine walls, seen in the curves of the number “2”; a profile view of the Rotunda in the middle “0”; and an aerial view of the Rotunda dome in the final “0.”
The design has already made a few appearances on Grounds, including one on Beta Bridge, long home to student messages of celebration, support, advocacy and more.
The UVA Bookstore will offer merchandise with the commemorative mark for sale in time for Final Exercises, and more inventory will be available in the fall. The commemorative mark is a reminder that current students and community members are participating in a unique moment in the University’s history.
“Being a student during the bicentennial makes you very reflective, thinking about UVA’s history and how the student body has really changed over time,” Lodge said. “It makes you think about the state of the University and the students right now, and imagine what it is going to look like as we move forward.”