The University of Virginia, also known as UVA or Virginia, is the 17th school in the United States. Located in Charlottesville, VA, UVA was founded by former president Thomas Jefferson along with James Monroe, James Madison, and John Marshall.
After growing tired with the failings of Jefferson’s alma mater, the College of William and Mary, Jefferson proposed a new college for the state of Virginia in 1817. After the group of the country’s leaders chose Charlottesville as the location, the first classes were held in 1825.
At the time, many of the schools in the United States only offered medicine, law, or religion as courses of study. However, UVA would go on to offer several different subjects in its first year: math, medicine, law, chemistry, languages (ancient and modern), and philosophy (natural and moral). The school claimed no religious affiliation. Jefferson remained closely connected and involved with UVA until his death.
In later years, UVA would remain the only school that stayed open during the Civil War and would start allowing women to attend classes in the 1890’s. However, 1895 spelled changes for the school after the Rotunda Library fire. Starting in the Annex due to an electrical problem, the damage quickly spread thanks to the “efforts” of faculty member William Echols. He made the ill decision to throw 100 pounds of dynamite into the Annex, hoping to keep the fire from the library itself. It, of course, failed. Echols now has an Honors program named for him.
Jefferson had requested that there would be no president of UVA. However, in the years after the fire, the tasks proved too much and too cumbersome for the Board of Visitors and a president was instated. Although the state of Virginia was involved in the funding of the school, this rapidly declined and, today, only 6% of funding comes from the state.
Alumni from UVA have included several US leaders (including former President Woodrow Wilson and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy), eight astronauts and NASA launch directors, eight Pulitzer Prize winners, Team USA Olympic members, and 51 Rhodes Scholars. Edgar Allen Poe also attended UVA but had to leave due to financial issues.
Today, about 24,000 students attend the University of Virginia.
1827 University Avenue Charlottesville, VA 22903