Frank L. Hereford Jr. (1974-1985)

In 1964, Edgar Shannon had appointed a committee to raise money to restore the Rotunda to its Jeffersonian design. This move followed nearly ten years of study and advocacy by the architectural historian Frederick Nichols of the University of Virginia to gut the Rotunda and replace Stanford White’s interior with a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s original. In 1965, the U.S. secretary of the interior had designated the Rotunda one of four National Historic Landmarks in Virginia. The following year, on January 7, 1966, Mr. Shannon had signed an agreement with the National Park Service for preservation of the Rotunda as a National Historic Landmark.

On and off the Grounds, there was debate about the wisdom of destroying the work of so great an architect as Stanford White. However, the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission approved the plan to restore the Rotunda according to the Jeffersonian plan, saying: “Although the Commission endorses the philosophy that historic buildings should reflect their full history and thus should retain major architectural additions and alterations acquired throughout the building’s existence, the Rotunda meets the principal qualification for an exception to this policy: it is a completely documented architectural monument and thus can be returned to its original appearance without compromise occasioned by lack of knowledge.”

The Hereford family at the University on September 26, 1973. From left to right: Frank Hereford, the younger (“Little Frank”); Anne Hereford; Frank Hereford the elder (“Big Frank”); Molly Hereford; Sarah Hereford; Beverly Hereford (wife of Frank Hereford the younger); Robert Hereford. Photo courtesy of Special Collections.

Restoring the Rotunda

In 1970, the University hired the Richmond firm of Ballou and Justice to carry out the restoration of the Rotunda based on their proposal. Various architectural elements were to be saved, including the exterior walls and Stanford White’s reinforcement of the exterior walls, dome, and the north and south porticoes. Otherwise, Mr. White’s work was to be obliterated.

By the time Frank L. Hereford Jr. entered office in 1974, the Rotunda had been reduced to a rough, cave-like space. Debate about the Rotunda continued, but now the controversy was about its use. The University originally intended the usable space created by restoring the Rotunda’s second floor to be devoted to University administration, housing the president’s office, and accommodating Board of Visitors meetings.

How to use the Restored Building

A student committee formed to discuss the use of the Rotunda advocated instead that it become a meeting place for students, members of the faculty, and administration. President Hereford along with Frederick Nichols met with students to review the various proposals. Their discussion concluded that the Rotunda “belongs to no specific person, group, or institution, but rather is a national landmark entrusted to the stewardship of the University.” In the end, the Rotunda was not used as the president’s office. President Hereford decided that there would be too much tourist activity to place his office there. The dedication of the restored Rotunda took place on April 13, 1976, the 233rd anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

Hereford the Physicist

The restoration must have been a proud achievement for Frank Hereford, who had first set foot on the Grounds as a seventeen-year-old first-year student. He continued his education at the University until he became the prized student of National Medal of Science laureate and physicist Jesse Beams, who called him “one of the best all-around physicists with whom I have ever been associated.” In Mr. Beams’s laboratory, still a student, Mr. Hereford had worked on assignments related to the Manhattan Project. At age twenty-four in 1947, he earned his Ph.D., and after a stint at the Bartol Research Foundation in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He returned to the University in 1949 at age twenty-six to become a member of its physics faculty.

As provost under Mr. Shannon, Mr. Hereford played a major role in establishing the Center for Advanced Studies. As president, he continued to build the faculty, who became ever more distinguished and numerous. By the time Mr. Hereford left office, the University had more than two hundred endowed chairs.

Capital Campaign

Mr. Hereford cited the capital campaign undertaken during his administration as one of its greatest successes. The initial goal of the campaign was $90 million, but after three years, in 1984, it had accumulated almost $150 million and helped raise the endowment from $97 million to $140 million. While a scholar and administrator, Mr. Hereford also had a keen head for business. Coming into office, he realized that “the number of five-year-olds was about 20% lower at that time than the number of 18-year-olds. . . . And I thought there was going to be a time that the University would have to concentrate much more heavily on private support than it had in past years.”

The enhanced financial position of the University resulted in new programs, faculty, and buildings. Most notably, the campaign accelerated progress in building the University Hospital and Clemons Library, devoted to serving the needs of undergraduates. Much of the money raised came from a source untapped until Mr. Hereford’s administration: the University’s alumni, ninety thousand strong in the early eighties, many of whom Mr. Hereford met personally.

To raise so much money, Mr. Hereford found that he and his wife Ann had to spend a lot of time traveling and entertaining. Asked how he managed University business while so often on the road, he said, “Ray Hunt was the Vice President for Business and Finance and I asked the Board to make him Chief Operating Officer of the University. Major corporations will generally have a Chief Executive Officer, but they will frequently, usually, have a Chief Operating Officer who really can run on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis the whole organization, and that’s what made it possible for me to devote a lot of time to the campaign.”

With the new capital campaign, entertaining at Carr’s Hill increased dramatically during the Hereford administration. Photo by Michael Bailey, Special Collections.

Carr’s Hill as a Development Resource

The Herefords were the first residents to use the house as a resource for University development. In regard to fundraising in Charlottesville, he said, “Of course we did a lot of things here. We did a lot of entertaining, whenever we had football games and basketball games, we would have alumni who we thought were capable of making significant gifts, back here for weekends.” He thought the world of Mrs. Hereford, and said about her assistance in fundraising, “I think my wife, Ann, had more of a golden touch than I did. She was tremendous.”

President Frank L. Hereford Jr. at his desk in Madison Hall, circa 1974. Photo courtesy of Special Collections.

Student Activities

Being on Carr’s Hill, Mr. Hereford caught an eyeful of student activities. Not infrequently students would show up at Hereford family events. Amy Hereford Munn recalls that all of Rugby Road joined her wedding celebration as wedding guests spilled out of the house to the beat of the Skip Castro Band. Not all student celebration was so benign, however. From his seat at the top of the hill, Mr. Hereford would watch in fitful consternation the Easters parade of young adults though the mud in Madison Bowl. Easters, an annual undergraduate celebration traditional at the University since the 1800s, had come to feature public drunkenness that Mr. Hereford believed undermined the University’s reputation for serious scholarship. By the seventies, celebrations had reached a fevered pitch, attracting thousands of students to Rugby Road. President Hereford describes the mayhem:

"It got so wild, mainly because of the hordes of students that would come here from elsewhere. It just got to be known as the biggest in the U.S. or something and we were told by the City Police and Fire Department that they were going to cease responding to any needs and we had one instance when Rugby Road was jammed full of people. Not just up to the stoplight at Grady Avenue, but even beyond that. We had one occasion where a fire truck just couldn’t get through to get to a fire."

By 1982, after Mr. Hereford prohibited Easters parties near the University, the tradition ground to a halt.

Increasing the number of African-American students and faculty

Mr. Hereford’s student challenge was greater than dealing with inebriated students and block parties members. He was committed to increasing the number of African-American students and faculty at the University, where for so many years they had been excluded. Part of that commitment included resigning from Farmington Country Club when efforts to pressure the club to change bylaws prohibiting African-American membership failed. The greater part of his commitment to racial equity came from appointing a dean of admissions, John Casteen. Central to Mr. Casteen’s mandate as dean was to increase enrollment of African Americans at the University.

John Casteen’s admission work

To accomplish this goal, Mr. Casteen traveled nearly all the roads of Virginia, and sat down with parents in their homes and convinced them that their children were welcome and would thrive at the University. In 1976, there were fewer than 171 African-American first-year students enrolled in the University. That same year, the Office of Afro-American Affairs opened in a house on Dawson’s Row. By the end of Mr. Hereford’s administration in 1985, African-American first-year undergraduate enrollment had grown to 207. By 2008, Mr. Casteen’s eighteenth year in the President’s Office, entering undergraduate African-American students numbered 354.

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