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2020 Jefferson medals to be awarded in absentia

The University of Virginia won’t be able to award its highest honor in person this year.

UVa and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello announced the winners of the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals in architecture, citizen leadership, global innovation and law Thursday. Typically, the medals are awarded on Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, at Monticello, but the foundation said they would be given in absentia this year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The awards are:

Architecture: Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, co-founders of the multidisciplinary design practice WEISS/MANFREDI, known for redefining the relationships between landscape, architecture, infrastructure and art through their award-winning projects.

Citizen leadership: Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation and a leader in global development. Shah was the USAID administrator during President Barack Obama’s administration and has deep experience in business, government and philanthropy.

Global innovation: Ted Turner, a media pioneer and philanthropist working to promote sustainability, environmental initiatives and charitable efforts around the world.

Law: Sonia Sotomayor, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States appointed by Obama in 2009 after a distinguished legal career.

“I was very much looking forward to welcoming these extraordinary men and women to Grounds, but the virus had other ideas,” UVa President Jim Ryan said in a news release. “Still, I hope they will accept these medals as a token of our admiration and gratitude. Together, they have devoted their lives to areas of study and practice that Thomas Jefferson cared deeply about. And they have done so with an eye towards improvement — recognizing that, while our pursuit of high ideals will always be imperfect, hope lies in the striving.”

The medals are presented annually by the president of the university and the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that owns and operates Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

“As Thomas Jefferson once counseled, we must ‘do to our fellow-men the most good in our power,’” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “This year’s medalists embody the spirit of this charge through their selfless, determined work. We are disappointed that we cannot award these honors in person, but no less pleased to recognize their tireless efforts to create a better future.”

Past winners include architect I.M. Pei; seven former and current U.S. Supreme Court justices; special counsel, former FBI director and UVa alumnus Robert S. Mueller III; Alice Waters, chef, food activist and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project; Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America; and several former and current U.S. senators and representatives, including Rep. John Lewis and Sen. John W. Warner.


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