Report of the President

From its beginning, the University of Virginia has pursued education in a distinctive fashion. The notions about curriculum that prevail in American universities today reflect the disciplines that Thomas Jefferson defined as the "useful sciences" relevant to life in a democracy. Jefferson's was an innovative notion that distinguished his university from the models and subjects taught elsewhere in the nineteenth century.

One hundred and seventy years after the first students moved into the rooms along the Lawn and the Ranges, the University of Virginia has succeeded to a degree unimaginable in 1825. It has emerged as the nation's premier public university even as it has moved into the first rank of institutions worldwide. In dozens of essential fields, faculty members are at the head of their professions. They conceive next-generation computing alongside colleagues from Cambridge and from private industry, occupy positions of international prominence in fields as diverse as archaeology and environmental science, literary studies and the resolution of boundary disputes in the Gulf Peninsula. Today's students are the brightest and most talented ever assembled on Grounds. Indeed, they may well be the strongest student body ever enrolled in an American public institution. New classrooms, laboratories, and libraries exploit today's technology while fostering close collaboration between students and faculty. Today, as in 1825, the Grounds define a distinctly American community of scholars who hold their own with the best anywhere.

The University of Virginia demonstrates how a public university can succeed as an institution of national, even international, scope. As public resources for education have diminished, private support has filled the void. The Campaign for the University has mobilized the community as never before. The plan in 1990 was to raise roughly $250 million over seven years. This past summer, less than two years into its public phase, the campaign passed the $500 million mark. In July 1997, the endowment held by the Rector and Visitors surpassed $1 billion. The Rector and Visitors' endowment is the fifth largest endowment among public universities, and it is growing rapidly. When endowments held by related foundations are added in, the total value exceeds $1.3 billion. While not yet comparable to the great endowments that support the nation's best private institutions and wealthiest public institutions, these funds have begun to provide the hedge essential to protecting excellence even in the bleakest periods of public finance.

The campaign was paced this year by a magnificent gift of $25 million from alumnus Carl W. Smith (Col '51). The athletics complex that includes Scott Stadium, the David A. Harrison III Field, Bryant Hall, and the Aquatics and Fitness Center will be named the Carl Smith Center in his honor.

Much of the credit for our fund-raising success belongs to Joshua P. Darden, Jr. (Col '58), the campaign's first chairman. The fruits of his labor can be found in every school and division on the Grounds. We are grateful to the campaign's new co-chairs, Edward C. Mitchell, Jr. (Col '63), and Thomas A. Saunders, III (Darden '67), for agreeing to lead the campaign into this new phase.

Through unrestricted gifts, alumni and friends reinforce the infrastructure that supports useful learning. This year marks a watershed in this sort of giving. Extraordinary unrestricted gifts from the Lillian T. Pratt Fund, which allocated $9.5 million, and from the estate of Marjorie C. Davenport, which designated $12.3 million, lead a long list of valuable investments in the University's future. By enhancing support for faculty salaries, the libraries, and the Shannon Center for Advanced Studies, and by allowing us to capitalize on opportunities as they arise, these gifts protect and enrich the core assets of the University -- its faculty and students.

As we look forward, it is fitting to pay tribute to the memory of Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., who died in August. As president, he made it possible for us to think of the University as a great national institution by assembling a renowned faculty and building first-rate facilities. To the three of us who followed in his office, he was the kindest and most thoughtful of friends. He contributed in great and small ways to the values that endure in this community.

I am grateful to each and every one of you for your support, guidance, and good will during this last year. Our work together has produced benefits far in excess of what any one of us might have accomplished alone. The University's faculty, students, friends, and alumni continue to be the great joys of my own life and work. To make note of the year's progress in a report such as this is merely to express my gratitude to you. Together, we are ensuring the University's strength and productivity well into the next century.

This joint work will not end on that day in the year 2000 or 2002 or at some other point when the Board of Visitors declares the campaign itself done. We have learned in these few years just how effectively the University can take responsibility for its future. Yet without this work we do together now, the University will not make the progress in the next decade or the one after, that it has made in this decade. Mr. Jefferson's buildings, ideas, and convictions cast long shadows. To work together to sustain them must be one of the grandest undertakings imaginable in a republic whose purpose is to sustain the illimitable freedom of the human mind.


John T. Casteen, III



President's Report 1996-97 Contents

Financial Report 1996-1997