April 9-22, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 7
Back Issues
Pituitary Center brings life-changing treatment to thousands
Student health insurance plan
Headlines @ U.Va.
U.Va. marks the 261st birthday of its founder — Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in Architecture an Law
Aerospace institute becoming a reality in Hampton
Online applications aid admissions process
Fatton: No ray of hope for native Haiti
Grossman enters new world of responsibility
Women’s Center to honor Arizona’s trailblazing Gov. Janet Napolitano
Artist explores DNA and difference in
‘ Jefferson Suites’
Nobel Prize-winning poet
Seamus Heaney to read April 19
Roaming Rome, Wylie focuses on material and light
U.Va. Marks the 261st Birthday of its Founder
Public lectures, tree-planting part of Founder’s Day activities

J. Harvie Wilkinson III, the former Chief Judge of the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and landscape architect Peter Walker, principal of Peter Walker and Partners, and newly selected winner of the design competition for the World Trade Center memorial, will receive 2004 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in Law and Architecture, respectively. (See profiles, below.)

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, are the highest outside awards offered by the University, which grants no honorary degrees. The annual awards — law in its 28th year, and architecture in its 39th year — are given as part of the University’s Founder’s Day activities, centered around Jefferson’s April 13 birthday.

The University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, a nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, sponsor the medals, which will be presented during a private luncheon in the University’s Rotunda.

Both medal recipients will give public lectures. Walker will speak on “Minimalist Gardens” on April 12, at 3 p.m. in Cabell Hall Auditorium. Wilkinson will discuss “Building a Legal Culture of Affection” on April 14, at 4:20 p.m. in the School of Law’s Caplin Pavilion.

A tree honoring Ernest H. Ern, U.Va. professor emeritus of environmental sciences, will be planted near the University’s Brooks Hall on Tuesday, April 13. University President John T. Casteen III will preside at the planting of a white oak at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

Ern joined the University of Virginia faculty in 1962 as assistant professor of geology. He became assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences in September 1966, served as dean of admission from 1967 to 1973, and was promoted to vice president for students affairs in 1973, a position he held for 20 years. Ern was named senior vice president and University professor in 1993. That same year, the U.Va. Board of Visitors established the Ernest H. Ern Distinguished Professorship in Environmental Sciences. In 1998, he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for excellence of character and service to humanity.

Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture
Walker Brings Nature’s Power to Urban Landscapes
Peter Walker
Walker collaborated on “Reflecting Absence,” a memorial to commemorate the victims of the World Trade Center attacks that eclipsed more than 5,000 entries.

By Elizabeth Kiem

In the half century that Peter Walker has been designing urban and environmental projects, he has incorporated the aesthetics and traditions of the globe into his work. He believes that modern architecture in the 21st century is by nature international, and that landscape architecture, in particular, draws strength from global development.

“The landscape is more powerful because we’ve become so urban,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “A tree in the city is more powerful than in the country.”

As the recipient of the 2004 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal, granted jointly by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the School of Architecture, Walker has been awarded the University’s highest outside honor.

Adele Chatfield-Taylor, president of the American Academy in Rome and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation trustee who served on the selection committee, said Walker shares qualities with Jefferson as an architect.

“He is steeped in tradition, but at the same time very creative and very original and very open to the originality of others, which is very Jeffersonian,” she said.

Walker began his career in 1955, studying at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned further degrees at the University of Illinois and Harvard University before returning to California to establish his own practice, Sasaki Walker and Associates. In 1983 he formed Peter Walker and Partners, which currently employs 27 landscape architects.

The firm’s major recent projects include Millennium Park for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the Sony Center in Berlin, the San Diego Library Walk and the Sky Forest Plaza in Tokyo. Walker collaborated with architect Michael Arad to design “Reflecting Absence,” the memorial selected from more than 5,000 submissions to commemorate the victims of the World Trade Center.

“We’ve never had this media rush,” he said of the sudden public attention to the memorial design, which was unveiled in January. “Landscape architects tend not to have much light shown on them.”
While he has only taken on a few memorials in the past (including his family’s own seaside plot in Mendocino, Calif.), Walker said he felt a duty to enter the World Trade Center Memorial competition: “You do it to win, but you also do it as a public obligation.”

Walker noted that one of his early mentors (and fellow Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal recipient), Lawrence Halprin, spent 20 years securing a memorial to Franklin Roosevelt, a man whose life and death greatly affected Halprin’s generation. “I understand his motives exactly,” Walker said.

In addition to “Reflecting Absence,” Walker’s firm has won 17 design competitions in the past decade. Walker said that designing public spaces always involves controversy, even when the project does not involve an act of terrorism and thousands of grieving families and friends. Arad’s original design faced multiple criticisms, many of which Walker helped to overcome by introducing greenery and tranquility to the planned starkness of the Ground Zero plaza. Other complaints focused on the lack of 9/11 artifacts and the ordering of the victims’ names. These criticisms have not desisted entirely.

“I don’t believe in design just being an election,” Walker said of the task of a designer to respond to public demands. “I think in the United States there is a lot of finding the least common denominator and then building it. But you waste a lot of money that way.”

Walker said that his artistic awakening coincided with the era of minimalism, but explained that it is simplistic to apply that term to architecture.

“There’s no such thing as a white room in landscape,” he said.
Instead, his intention is to make the urban resident more conscious of nature by emphasizing simplicity in his designs. Like the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who saw nature as an antidote to the factory lifestyle of the 19th century, Walker wants to engage people today with the interminable passage of natural time, which is often overlooked from the vantage of climate-controlled offices.

“I try to make … you very conscious of where the sun is, what the seasons are, and also the stages of life,” he said. “I try to make my landscapes focus on what’s going on, whether you like it or not.”
Walker will accept the 2004 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture on Founder’s Day, joining the ranks of esteemed architects Mies Van Der Rohe, I.M. Pei and Frank Gehry. An exhibit of his work at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas will be on display at the School of Architecture April 5 through 24.

Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law
Wilkinson, seeks ‘legal culture of affection’
J. Harvie Wilkinson III
Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, the 28th law medalist, credits U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell with instilling an appreciation of the human dimension in law.

By Elizabeth Kiem

Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law recipient, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, may be on the short-list for nominees to the Supreme Cout, but his present proximity to the nation’s top bench is not the result of a clearly charted course.

In fact, just five years after accepting a coveted clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Wilkinson nearly abandoned the legal profession entirely.

“I was terribly tempted to go into journalism fulltime,” said Wilkinson, recalling his three-year tenure as editorial page editor for the Virginian Pilot. “There’s a lot I miss about it.”

As Wilkinson explained, writing editorials and writing legal decisions are vocations radically at odds with each other.

“As a newspaper editor, you’re paid to say what you think, and a judge is paid not to say what he thinks,” he noted. “Both of these professions have very appealing sides. It’s just frustrating that I can’t be both at the same time.”

Brooklyn-born Wilkinson moved to Richmond when he was 2 years old and considers himself a life-long Virginian. The University looms large in his upbringing. His father, a distinguished U.Va. alum (1927), Darden Trustee (1952-1961), and Board of Visitors member (1966-1970), fostered early Wahoo loyalty in his son.

“You have to be a pretty devoted fan to drive up in the midst of a 28-game losing streak and make the trek up Route 250 every Saturday,” said Wilkinson, adding “it’s been sort of a love affair with the University ever since, in many different capacities.”

After attending private schools in Richmond and New Jersey, Wilkinson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, returning to U.Va. in 1970 as a law student. He was the first student ever appointed to the Board of Visitors, on which he served from 1970 until 1973. He has served on the Law School faculty four times, teaching courses in constitutional law, criminal procedure and federal courts.

John C. Jeffries, dean of the Law School, called Wilkinson “one of the nation’s most accomplished and distinguished jurists.” He said that awarding him the Jefferson Medal was a decision independent of Wilkinson’s University affiliations, but that “these ties make it a special pleasure for us to recognize his achievements in the law.”

Appointed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Reagan, Wilkinson’s bench is the last stop on the judicial trail to the Supreme Court. Over two decades he has presided over thousands of cases, ranging from EPA regulations to the rights of criminal suspects, including the recent case of the detainee Yaser Hamdi, a seminal development in the legal handling of enemy combatants in the war against terror. The judge declines to characterize the relative significance of the many cases that he has ruled on.

“I don’t try to differentiate because every case is so all-important to the litigants,” he explained. “You can never ask a doctor ‘Which were the most important operations you performed?’ My answer would be ‘Well, the one I’m going to perform tomorrow.’”

Wilkinson credits his mentor, Supreme Court Justice Powell, for instilling an appreciation for the human dimension of the legal profession. He recalled walking down the street and witnessing Powell’s sincere interest in passing petitioners.

“I try to emulate him,” he said. “He really felt that judging was a calling
of public service and that you’re not a very good judge if you don’t couple an interest in the intellectual workings of the law with a genuine concern and interest in people.”

The author of four books, Wilkinson confesses to having “the writer’s bug.” Among his writing projects are a treatise examining how the law drains practitioners of imaginative qualities and a study of the structural characteristics of the Constitution.

Another work-in-progress asks how to build a “legal culture of affection.” Wilkinson says he is intellectually puzzled about how people with dramatically different views can maintain affection for and trust in each other. But his thesis has practical applications, as well.

“I want to try to get beyond the level of platitude on this,” he asserted.

“Everyone in the profession –— whether it be the practicing bar, or the academic community or the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee or the judicial fraternity –— have got to try to soften the edges of our animosities.”

Wilkinson plans to deliver his thoughts on “a legal culture of affection” on the occasion of his acceptance of the Thomas Jefferson Medal.


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