The Jeffersonian Grounds, or the University’s core historic precinct, were designed by Thomas Jefferson as the embodiment of his ideas for an educated citizenry as a cornerstone of democracy. In fact, Jefferson cited the University (in his phrasing the “Academical Village”) as one of his proudest achievements, along with writing the Declaration of Independence and Virginia’s statute for religious freedom. He sought recognition not only for two documents fundamental to American freedom but also for the institution through which those freedoms would be preserved.
When Thomas Jefferson began designing and building the University of Virginia, he gathered a “circle of friends” who were the “subscribers, contributors, and founders” of the University. This select group included James Madison and James Monroe, who were present to lay the cornerstone of Pavilion VII and who served on the University’s first Board of Visitors. Jefferson’s Circle was formed to support the preservation of Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece: the Rotunda, pavilions and hotels, student rooms, and gardens that make up his Academical Village.
Jefferson’s Circle members make unrestricted gifts of $1,000 or more as the basis for annual membership. Gifts may be made to the Rotunda Renovation, Historic Buildings and Grounds, or the Jeffersonian Restoration Endowment and are recognized annually in the Rotunda.
With the help of these generous donors, the Rotunda, the pavilion and hotels, the student rooms, and the historic landscapes will continue to embody Jefferson’s belief in education as the foundation of democracy.