One of the best things about being in a university as old and as rich in heritage as UVA is all the folklore that goes with the history. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never been to the more famous landmarks of UVA like the Lawn or the Rotunda, but this morning in the UVA magazine email there was an interesting article about the residences in the Lawn area that are reserved for the exceptional members of the student body at UVA. There were some students that occupied the rooms that someone from their family had occupied years ago, others talked about opening their doors to curious tourists to talk about the history of the Lawn residences. Read that piece here.
One of the traditions that we were informed about in our first week at Darden was the “ghost” of Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of UVA and affectionately referred to as TommyJ or TJ, that roamed the grounds of the University. Apparently he had been spotted at Darden many times. In the last nine months, I’ve spent way more hours lounging in the Piano Room or Café 67 or the learning team rooms than I care to admit, but never had I spotted TommyJ until a couple of Thursdays ago. The ghost is not really a specter. He is a man (sorry to disappoint) who dresses up as TommyJ (and does a really good job of it if all the portraits of TommyJ do him any justice) and walks around the grounds. He seems to like visiting Darden on Thursdays when the lights dim down earlier in the evening as the school empties out after a Cold Call with people heading out to TNDC to begin their weekend.
The first time I spotted TommyJ, I was sitting in one of those oversized armchairs in the Piano Room and someone was tinkering with the grand piano, playing a tune I didn’t recognize but sounding good nevertheless. TommyJ walked down from the mailbox area, across PepsiCo, towards Saunders Hall and the entrance.
Jefferson lives among us and in every corner of this beautiful town. All the buildings here are designed in the same theme as Jefferson designed it so many years ago. Monticello, his home, is a huge tourist attraction. At Darden, we even have his statue over by the fountain on Flagler Courtyard, from where he observes the hustle and bustle in the student and faculty buildings.
I spotted TommyJ again last Thursday as a few of us were hanging out at the Piano Room after the Easter Cold Call. Secretly I was glad to discover he wasn’t a figment of my overworked imagination! I think it’s kind of comforting to know he walks around, watching over his University.