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Raven Society Celebrates Centennial Anniversary

March 11, 2004 -- Edgar Allan Poe, the University’s most famous poet, left Charlottesville almost 180 years ago. Yet his memory, and the contributions he made both at the University and beyond, live on as the Raven Society celebrates its centennial anniversary. The society will mark the occasion with a black-tie gala on March 20 with an expected attendance of more than 600 members of the extended University community.

“We are very excited to be marking our 100th anniversary. The society has been working toward this occasion for the past two years, and we are especially looking forward to hosting University alumni who will return to Charlottesville for this event,” said Cameron Howell, current Raven Society president and doctoral student in the Curry School of Education.

Founded in 1904, the Raven Society seeks to bring together individuals – students, faculty, administrators, and alumni – who have provided leadership within the community and contributed to the advancement of the core ideals of the University, especially academic excellence. Additionally, the society works to protect and celebrate the legacy of Poe’s time at the University, including the maintenance of 13 West Range, where Poe is believed to have resided.

To further its academic and scholarly mission, the society annually presents the Raven Fellowship, a grant between $1,000 and $2,500 that allows undergraduate or graduate students to undertake research projects outside of their standard academic curriculum. Additionally, the society presents the prestigious Raven Award, to recognize individuals who excel in their scholarly work and demonstrate a sustained commitment to the University of Virginia. The society is also working to raise money to endow the Raven Scholarships, intended to support a semester of study for a student from each of the University’s 10 schools.

Edgar Allan Poe entered the University on Feb. 14, 1826, just after the beginning of its second session. Studying ancient and modern languages, he excelled as a student, winning top honors in French and Latin and the praise of his professors. He joined the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, and after living on the Lawn for a time, he moved to the West Range. He is believed to have occupied Room 13, which has been preserved and is representative of a typical student room during the early years of the University. Poe’s time at the University was cut short by financial difficulties. With insufficient support from home, he ran up debts of more than $2,000 with local merchants and resorted, unsuccessfully, to gambling to obtain funds. Poe left the University on Dec. 15, 1826, never to return.

The Raven Society was founded, in part, because William McCully James, a student from Baltimore, felt that the existing social and literary societies encouraged students to isolate themselves from the rest of the University community. James petitioned a faculty committee to select 12 students of upstanding academic and personal character who had endeavored to promote the core values of the University. In less than 10 days, the faculty acted on the proposal, the original members were selected and a constitution was adopted on April 27, 1904. “Since its founding, the society has been steadfast in its commitment both to the University and to academic excellence,” said Alexander G. “Sandy“ Gilliam, Raven member, Centennial Committee co-chair and secretary to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors.

In 1907, just four years after its founding, U.Va. President Edwin A. Alderman and the Board of Visitors charged the Raven Society with the upkeep of 13 West Range. In 1924, architecture professor Edmund S. Campbell led the effort to restore the room to its original condition. The room was again renovated in the 1950s, and University alumnus A. Churchill Young donated Poe’s bed from the Allan family house in Richmond. Today, Poe’s room on the West Range looks almost exactly as it did in 1826. Visitors to the University may enterPoe’s room each fall during Family Weekend and each spring during Garden Week.

Poe’s most famous poem and the society’s namesake, “The Raven,” was published in 1845. Although the work gained him national notoriety, Poe died destitute on Oct. 7, 1849. However, Poe’s legacy lives on through the work of the Raven Society.

For information regarding the Raven Society, contact Cameron Howell at (434) 924-4088 or lch5x@virginia.edu. The Raven Society may be found on the Internet at http:// student.virginia.edu/~ravens/.

Contact: Dave Wolcott, (434) 924-7803

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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