More than 178 years ago, Thomas Jefferson and a group of friends and supporters met in the midst of an "old, turned-out field" to lay the cornerstone of what would become the University of Virginia. These were practical, hardheaded persons, but they were also visionaries who had thought deeply about the future of the nation and who understood that public education was critical to the viability of our fledgling democracy. Yet they would have been astonished if they could have looked into the future to see the modern institution that has risen on those foundations. And, I believe, they would have been pleased, for public universities like the University of Virginia are more than simple props for the democratic process; they are among its finest expressions.
Accordingly, as we inaugurate our $750 million Campaign for the University of Virginia the most ambitious fund-raising effort ever undertaken by a public institution of our size we have a great deal to celebrate. Even after a decade in which state support for higher education has been halved, the University of Virginia in contrast to peer institutions across the country is healthier, stronger, and more vital than it has ever been.
We continue to attract uncommonly bright, inquisitive students who are drawn not simply by the opportunity to study under our distinguished faculty, but by the chance to study with them. They apply for admission because they want to join our academical village. An indication of the University's success is that we have over five applicants for every opening in the first-year class.
We number among the faculty hundreds of eminent women and men who have attained the highest levels of distinction in their fields. As you will read in this report, they include winners of the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize in American History, the American Institute of Architects' Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom; members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering; and fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Few faculties anywhere are their equal.
We are also in the midst of the largest construction boom in our history. As I write, some $410 million in capital projects are underway, projects that are transforming the North Grounds and providing much needed classroom, research, and recreational space elsewhere. We have also revamped our administrative infrastructure and redefined the way we do business. The University is one of only three public universities with an AA1 bond rating from Moody's Investors Service, a major bond-rating agency.
Although our overriding goal is to ready this institution to meet the demands of the next century, our efforts have already borne fruit. For the second year in a row, U.S. News and World Report named the University of Virginia the top-ranked public university in the nation. The Darden School, the Law School, and the Architecture School are listed among the top ten professional schools in their disciplines, and the prestigious National Research Council placed our programs in English, religious studies, German, Spanish and Portuguese, and physiology in the top ten as well.
I have thought a great deal about why the University has been able to prosper while many of our peer institutions have faltered. The answer lies, I believe, in the extraordinary loyalty of our alumni and benefactors and in the intensity of their lifelong engage ment with the University.
Not one of the accomplishments I have described would be possible without their gifts of time, talent, and common sense, their willingness to help us strategize about the University's future, and their material gifts.
Private philanthropy gave the University its beginning and has always sustained it in difficult times. It is worth noting that when the General Assembly finally passed a bill establishing the state's first public university, it provided $15,000 in funding. Jefferson raised $40,000 from his friends.
This relationship has not changed appreciably since Jefferson's time -- today just 12.7 percent of our resources come from the state of Virginia. As we enter the public phase of the Campaign for the University of Virginia, please join with me in continuing the work begun long ago on that "old, turned-out field." And as we work together, let us make the future we build no less astonishing than today's University would be to those who came before us.
John T. Casteen, III
Go on to A Year of Accomplishment and Creativity
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