A Gift for Politics

Larry Sabato (Col ’74) knows how to kick off a campaign. In 2005, he honored a commitment to his mentor, the late Edgar Shannon, who was president of the University when Sabato was an undergraduate. Fulfilling his pledge “to give back to UVA,” he announced a $1 million campaign gift to the Center for Politics.

As the center’s founding director, Sabato challenged his fellow alumni to follow his example. His gift—the largest given by a faculty member to UVA at the time—spurred others to support and strengthen the center’s goal to become a national leader in youth and adult civic education and participation.

Now, more than a decade later, Sabato has done it again. The celebrated University Professor of Politics has made a $2 million gift to kick off a new $30 million fundraising initiative to expand the center’s physical space and educational capabilities. He’s inviting all members of the UVA community to join him.

“I’m going to be asking a lot of people for gifts, and I thought it might help to show how much I believe in what we are doing to improve civic education,” Sabato said. “I’ve been privileged to have 46 years of close association with the University, and so I have seen both its great achievements and its pressing needs.”

A Nerve Center of Democracy

Founded in 1998, the non-partisan Center for Politics encourages public involvement and civic engagement as a means of making government more responsive. Already the University’s single largest public outreach program, the center operates through the support of private donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals, as well as University funding and federal and state-sponsored grants.

The center’s campaign will ensure that it provides students and citizens with enriching civic education programs for years to come. It will accomplish the following:

  • Create two new endowed professorships, one focusing on the traditional academic fields of government and politics, and the other accommodating a respected political practitioner.
  • Award scholarships to students like Olivia Beavers (Col ’15) who wish to pursue unpaid political and governmental internships in Washington, D.C., and Richmond. “A White House internship allowed me to see government and politics up close,” she said. “It has propelled my career. I now work at CNN as a news associate where I helped with 2016 election coverage.” An endowed scholarship fund will allow the center to sustain and expand its internship program.
  • Build endowments for long-term funding of its civic learning programs, such as the Youth Leadership Initiative and Global Perspectives on Democracy.
  • Construct a new building on the grounds of Montesano, where the center currently resides. The structure will allow the center to accommodate additional students, create new learning opportunities, offer public meeting space, and consolidate teaching efforts.

During Sabato’s more than four decades on Grounds, in addition to his support for the Center for Politics, he has also made substantial gifts to the School of Medicine’s pancreatic cancer program, the UVA Library, and various scholarship funds. He knows just how much can be accomplished when the UVA community comes together to raise funds for a new project.

“I’m excited about our plans to expand programs that help civics teachers and their young pupils everywhere, as well as providing our students with funding for prize internships with office holders,” he said. “We need to support and endow these projects to preserve the center’s mission for the future. The center has more work to do to improve our politics by educating and involving all Americans.”