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The University of Virginia: A Pictorial HistoryNew Pictorial History of University of Virginia Offers Two-Century Pageant of Educational Life in Jefferson’s ‘Academical Village’

September 10, 1999 -- The history of the University of Virginia is, like the larger history of the United States, the story of Thomas Jefferson's vision and of how that vision grew into the lively, democratic place we know today. Jefferson believed that education was essential to the new republic -- an education available universally, not just to those who could afford it.

Nearly 200 years later, within the walls of his "academical village," men and women of all backgrounds debate -- and often criticize -- the ideas of their University's founder, perhaps the best testimony of all to the spirit and success of his vision.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the University Press of Virginia in collaboration with the University of Virginia Bookstore will publish this month a new pictorial history of the institution -- containing many rare and historic photos and images of University life and its world-renowned architecture.

"The University of Virginia: A Pictorial History," written by Susan Tyler Hitchcock, tells the story through more than 250 pages containing some 369 black-and-white and color photos, prints and other illustrations.

"It's remarkable how much this University has changed and how much it hasn't," said Nancy Essig, director of the University Press. "We aspired to produce a book that would both show the rich heritage and trace the constant change." The book was prepared with the advice and recollections of many members of the University community and is the first full pictorial overview of the University's life in more than three decades. Coverage of important recent decades supplements the last comprehensive history of U.Va., Virginius Dabney’s "Mr. Jefferson's University," published by the University Press in 1981.

The new book's main chapters, arranged chronologically, follow the rise of the University from its founding "on a plan so broad and liberal and modern," in Jefferson's words, to current President John T. Casteen III's initiatives for a University of the 21st century, where the myriad resources of the Internet are just a click away.

Much has occurred in the intervening years. During the Civil War, students, faculty, and members of the administration watched with dread as tents were erected on the Lawn for wounded Confederate soldiers and as a Union column with George Armstrong Custer at its head approached the University Grounds. At the current site of Alderman Library, law professor John B. Minor and others convinced Union troops not to sack the University.

In 1895 the fire that nearly destroyed the Rotunda paradoxically raised the architectural stature of the Grounds to national prominence. Stanford White was so awed by Thomas Jefferson's genius that it "scared [him] to death" to design new buildings that would turn the Lawn into a quadrangle, but the new century saw these projects and new homes for the professional schools come to fruition.

Gradually, the University opened its doors to women, and to the first African-American student, Gregory Hayes Swanson, who sued for admittance to the law school in 1950. During the Vietnam War, when universities were closed nationwide, President Edgar Shannon's address commending students for acting according to their conscience brought condemnation from some quarters, but earned him a standing ovation at commencement the following spring. During the same period, Shannon's faculty recruiting of scholars like Fredson Bowers of the English department helped to build the "public Ivy" that has been ranked among the nation’s very best institutions in academic excellence and educational value throughout the 1990s.

Interwoven with this history are sections displaying the places and themes that have endeared the University and its Charlottesville home to generations of students, who appear in everything from the styles of the 1830s to the "bare feet and Weejuns" of the 1970s. Athletes perform while their classmates cheer at Lambeth Field and Memorial Gymnasium, Scott Stadium and University Hall, and friends gather afterward in the restaurants and bars of the Corner.

Thomas Jefferson's philosophy of education, according to his contemporary George Tucker, "allowed more latitude and indulgence to students than was usual," creating a community where the concept of honor rather than "the fear of punishment, or dread of disgrace" provides the ethic that inspires University life.

"Carefully researched, beautifully written, and authoritative, this insightful book covers virtually all of the important events that constitute the history of the University of Virginia," says Raymond C. Bice, University Historian Emeritus. "It will bring back happy memories to some and introduce others to the events of the University's remarkable past."

Author Susan Tyler Hitchcock holds a Ph.D. in English from the University. A freelance writer living in Albemarle County, she is also the author of "Gather Ye Wild Things: A Forager's Year" (Virginia) and "Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea."

Gibson Design Associates of Charlottesville provided both interior and jacket design.

The new "University of Virginia: A Pictorial History" can be purchased from the University of Virginia Bookstore, (800) 759-4667, and in bookstores across the state or may be ordered directly from the University Press of Virginia at (800) 831-3406.

News Media: For interviews or additional information Susan Hitchcock may be reached at (804)295-4083; Nancy Essig, University Press director at (804) 924-3131; and Jon Kates, University Bookstore director, at (804) 924-1070.

For a review copy or for photos to illustrate a story or review please contact Mary Kathryn Hassett at (804) 924-6064. Photos can also be downloaded from the University Press Web site at

Contact: Mary Kathryn Hassett, (804) 924-6064 or Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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