March 9-22, 2001
(no issue March 16 due to Spring Break)
Matthews family gives $500,000
General Faculty Council holding elections online
Library honors Madison's contributions to U.Va.
WFPA seeking nominations

Students vote down three of four proposed Honor System reforms

Nondiscrimination policy
Undergraduate engineers launch real-world NASA project
In Memoriam
U.Va. tapped to study acute lung injury
Hot Links -- Jackson Davis Collection
Communications projects recognized
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
Not just an 'everyday' experience -- photo
Special trio closes concert series
After Hours -- Zephyrus
Back Issues
Portrait of James Madison (1817, painted by Joseph Wood.) Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society

Library honors Madison's contributions to U.Va.

By Melissa Norris

After many years of political service to his country and during his so-called retirement, James Madison joined his longtime friend, Thomas Jefferson, in founding the University of Virginia. On March 16, the 250th anniversary of Madison's birth, the University Library will join festivities throughout the country to celebrate Madison as the "Father of the Constitution" and as the nation's fourth president. The library will note Madison's great and often overlooked contributions to the University.

"James Madison, Unsung Hero of the University," displayed in Alderman Library's Memorial Hall throughout March, will exhibit facsimiles of Madison's letters, documents, and even his will — all of which demonstrate his dedication to, and work for, the University.

Engraving of University from Goodacre's 1831. Courtesy of Special Collections, U.Va. Library

Madison assisted Jefferson in every step of the planning, points out David Mattern, senior associate editor of the Papers of James Madison, based in the library. He went with Jefferson to meetings about the site of the University at that point, it was called Central College and helped him choose the faculty and the books for the library.

Near his death, Jefferson wrote to Madison, "…it will be a comfort to leave that institution under your care." One year after the University opened, Madison was elected its second rector. He led the University for eight tumultuous years of early growth, which included financial difficulties, the departures of several of the first faculty and episodes of student unruliness.

Courtesy of Special Collections, U.Va. Library
Madison, among others, was present at the first meeting of the Board of Visitors on May 5, 1817, as his signature on the minutes shows. In August 1818, Madison rode with Jefferson to Rockfish Gap for the meeting of the State Commission to select a site for "Central College."

The University Library benefited greatly from Madison. In response to its poor funding, Madison gave both money and volumes from his own collection. His 1836 bequest of $1,500 (the equivalent of more than $24,000 today) established the library's first endowment, which still provides funds annually for the purchase of books.

In his will, Madison left his extensive library to the University. However, only a fraction of his volumes ever made it here. It is believed that Dolley Madison's son from her first marriage, John Payne Todd to whom the care of the Madison home, Montpelier, was left sold much of the collection to pay off gambling debts and liquor bills. After taking legal action, the University acquired 587 pamphlets from an estimated 4,000 volumes once belonging to Madison.

"James Madison was a champion of education," Mattern said. "His contributions to the University during its beginning helped to make it the premier institution it is today."

See the Web site,, for an online version of the exhibit and more information.


© Copyright 2001 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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