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U.Va.- Supported Leifur Eiriksson Foundation To Begin Accepting Applications This Fall For Graduate Student Exchanges Between Iceland And The United States

August 29, 2005 -- The Leifur Eiriksson Foundation, established by the Central Bank of Iceland and the University of Virginia, announces the launch of its first Web site at The site provides information about the foundation’s history and mission and its fully funded scholarship program to support scholarly exchanges between graduate students from Iceland and the United States.

Since its founding in 2001, the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation has raised more than $3.5 million, an amount sufficient to fund the scholarship exchange program for study beginning in fall 2006.

U.S. students interested in advanced study and research in Iceland, and Icelandic students interested in similar study and research in the United States, may apply this fall to the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation for one of several exchange scholarships, which will cover tuition and living expenses.

The idea for the foundation evolved out of the 1997 decision of the Central Bank of Iceland to issue a silver coin commemorating Leifur Eiriksson's discovery of North America 1,000 years ago.  The Central Bank invited the U.S. Congress to participate. In 1999 Congress passed legislation authorizing the minting and sale of a U.S. commemorative silver dollar coin. The U.S. Mint also minted the 1000 kronur commemorative coin for Iceland, issued by the Central Bank of Iceland. A $10 surcharge per each coin minted and sold was collected to support the creation of an educational exchange program between the countries.

The surcharges were paid to the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation, which was created by the Central Bank of Iceland and the University of Virginia Foundation in 2001. The foundation’s first board of trustees was chaired by Robert Kellogg, a medieval Icelandic literature scholar and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. After Kellogg’s death in 2004, the foundation honored his contributions by naming one of its exchange scholarships the Robert Kellogg Memorial Scholarship.

The foundation board is composed of five trustees named by the Central Bank of Iceland, the Prime Minister of Iceland and the President of the University of Virginia. The current chair is Steingrimur Hermannsson, a former Prime Minister of Iceland.  University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III and former University of Virginia English professor Donald Fry also serve on the current foundation board, along with two distinguished members of the faculty of the University of Iceland, Sigridur Duna Kristmundsdottir and Thrainn Eggertsson.  

"Having been involved with this project since the Central Bank decided in 1997 to issue the Leifur Eiriksson commemorative coin, I am extremely pleased to take part in launching the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation,” Hermansson said. “I strongly believe that student exchange between the United States and Iceland will strengthen still the good relationship which the two countries enjoy."

More than 170,000 U.S. commemorative coins and 100,000 Icelandic coins were sold from the original minting, yielding approximately $2.8 million for the scholarship fund. An additional $700,000 in gifts from corporations, foundations and individuals was also raised, bringing the scholarship fund to $3.5 million. Major donors include the Alcoa Foundation, Kenneth D. Peterson and the Peterson Family Foundation, Kaupthing Bunadarbanki hf (KB Bank) and Icelandair.

For more information, visit the foundation’s Web site at

Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189


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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