In 1985, Richard Moll, who had served as an admissions officer at Yale and other colleges, published Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities. He chose eight he thought could compete with the eight universities of the Ivy League.
Academic excellence was the key criterion, but Moll also considered the campus and character of each institution. One that makes every list I’ve seen of the outstanding public universities of the United States, and which you may not know, is the one I visited recently. Can you guess from the video below which one that is?
The university has a stunning campus, designed by Thomas Jefferson. He also designed Monticello, his home, which you see here in the background of the video. The main buildings share a commitment to classical Palladian architecture, and an iconic rotunda. A sweeping rectangular lawn leads off of the main building. Monticello is a plantation, and the “grounds” (don’t say “campus”) of the university are similarly far-reaching. The university extends over 1,682 acres, filled with dignified buildings and stately trees.
How committed are the students to their education and their alma mater? 97% of first-year students return. The graduation rate is the highest of any public university: 93%. It must be admitted that Edgar Allen Poe dropped out, after gambling away his tuition.
The state university founded by Thomas Jefferson is The University of Virginia–in Charlottesville. Yes, the same Charlottesville that was in the news in August 2017 for a white nationalist rally that ended in disaster.
Will you or your child be safe at The University of Virginia? Please bear in mind that several Virginians I spoke with denounced the white supremacists as agitators who came from outside to Charlottesville precisely because of Charlottesville’s reputation for being a progressive city. It seems so unfair, they said, that Charlottesville may now be associated in people’s minds with right-wing ideologies that are not at all characteristic of the city–and certainly not of the university.
Jeffersonian principles of democracy and education are the foundation of The University of Virginia. They are firm and long-lasting. Visit the university and you may be as impressed as I was with the grandeur of these principles. When Jefferson himself gazed down from his mountaintop home of Monticello to his beloved university, which you see here in the distance through the trees, I believe he was contemplating not just the architecture, but those enduring principles.