I am on a plane returning to campus after three days of visiting Dublin School alumni and friends in Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC. Director of Development and Alumni Relations Erika Rogers and I met with alumnus Ben Blanchard in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ben entered Dublin as a 6th grader in 1940! He went on to have an inspiring career teaching systems engineering at Virginia Tech, where his popular textbooks are still being used today.
After lunch Erika and I headed over to the Grounds (Jefferson’s name for the campus) of the University of Virginia. During college I combined my interests in history and architecture and wrote a paper about Thomas Jefferson’s vision and design for the UVA Grounds. That research has informed many of the ideas I have proposed for the buildings, open spaces, and trails on our own 400 acre campus. In 2008 our architect Randall Imai used the UVA Grounds as an example of campus design for our Board of Trustees to consider when we started the campus master planning process. Randall had the brilliant idea to remove the parking lot in the middle of campus and create the central quad that we now enjoy.
Despite all of my interest in UVA I had never set foot on the Grounds until yesterday. Walking along the colonnades, the dormitories, classrooms, farmers market and food trucks was a powerful experience for me. In 1817 Jefferson envisioned creating an “academical village” where education would be a shared experience among students and faculty. Jefferson believed that the young democracy required a significant investment in the education of its citizenry. Today UVA is ranked at or near the top of lists ranking the top public colleges in the country. It is a stunning place.
While I do not pretend to be Jefferson and Dublin does not pretend to be UVA, we are animated by a similar belief in the transformative power of intentionally designed campuses. As an example, when we were planning the new Michael and Mary Cornog Library we hoped that students would be drawn to the beautiful eastern light and expansive views of the new space. We hoped that the space would create both a calming nook for anxious young people and an inspiring space for inquiry and reflection. It has warmed my heart to see these hopes come to fruition over the opening weeks of school—and the space is not even finished!
Dublin aspires to have its own academical village on our campus, a carefully designed community that facilitates and encourages students and faculty to work closely together in an effort to become informed and engaged citizens of the world.