A Living Masterpiece - Giving to UVA

A Living Masterpiece

It’s been called the best front yard in the world. Learning within a UNESCO World Heritage Site and living on the Lawn are high on the list of UVA’s distinctive student experiences.

Efforts to sustain the University’s historic buildings and grounds are making sure future generations can look forward to learning in the Academical Village. Gifts to the Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative are helping restore Lawn rooms, preserve historic buildings, and maintain the many significant landscapes and spaces that comprise the University of Virginia.

In response to the Lawn Alumni Challenge, last spring Suzy Buenaventura (Col ’80) took the lead in making a major gift to sponsor her room at 12 East Lawn. Now a plastic surgeon in Alexandria, Virginia, Dr. Buenaventura cherishes the memories she had as a Lawn resident. Her gift is helping restore and repair the historic living quarters in which generations of Lawn residents have spent their fourth year.

A deep commitment to preserve the Lawn attracted many students and alumni to an early effort called Keep the Fires Burning in 2011, which paid for repairs to chimneys and installing a fire-suppression system. Today’s Lawn residents enjoy warm, safe, working fireplaces, thanks to the many gifts that funded these essential renovations.


The late Richard K. Ernst, 1943 alumnus of the College of Arts & Sciences who in his lifetime supported preservation of UVA’s historic buildings, also made a bequest to continue the work. He lived in 35 West Lawn in his fourth year, in the basement of Pavilion X, and on the East Range in the “Cracker Box,” while a student in the School of Law. His gift was the largest ever to historic preservation at UVA at the time and has supported continued restoration and conservation efforts in the Academical Village. “He loved the Grounds and wanted to keep them beautiful,” said Ernst’s friend and neighbor June McLernan.

Ben Phipps (McIntire ’55, Law ’58), a former resident of 23 West Lawn, developed a passion for historic preservation through related professional work in Florida. Phipps recently made a provision in his estate plans for the Jeffersonian Restoration Endowment Fund, devoted to maintenance of the Jeffersonian Grounds. He is now a member of the new JGI Board, helping the University promote signature JGI projects and advocating for historic preservation efforts, with special emphasis on those in the Academical Village.