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Bringing Ideas Together

Jefferson Scholars' center will provide common ground for various disciplines

Courtyard view from entry VMDO Architects

Cross-pollination is just as important to creative thought as it is to bees and blossoms.

To that end, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation’s Jefferson Fellows Center promises to be a hive of intellectual activity by providing scholars of different disciplines a shared space to rub elbows and exchange ideas.

“They can have an opportunity that’s not available to them anywhere else,” says Jimmy Wright, president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. Spacious common areas, expansive seminar rooms, a reception hall, shared offices and a central outdoor courtyard make interaction easy and natural. Top graduate students in law, business and the arts and sciences will be able to learn, teach, conduct research and exchange ideas freely.

The center, located on two acres on Maury Avenue, is scheduled for completion by the beginning of the 2009 fall semester.

The bulk of the funding comes through $18 million in bonds approved last June by the Albemarle Industrial Development Authority. The initial design called for 23,000 square feet of space, but that could grow slightly. More than two-thirds of the facility will be devoted to student and faculty use; the remainder, to offices for the foundation, which has been housed at Alumni Hall since its inception.

The proposed center ran into local controversy when VMDO Architects recommended razing rather than renovating a building on the property that dated to 1914. Designed by noted architect Eugene Bradbury, the building was hailed by some as historically significant, but it had fallen into such disrepair that the project’s principal architect, Bob Moje (Arch ’76, ’80), deemed it unsuitable for preservation.

The center and its emphasis on multidiscipline cross-pollination is part of the foundation’s effort to attract the nation’s best and brightest, Wright says.

“The decision to build this was driven by the knowledge that we had to have a center for those fellows if we were going to be able to succeed in attracting the quality of person we were seeking,” he says.

In addition, students, faculty and visiting scholars will be able to use the center for public lectures and presentations.

“There will be the opportunity for the community at large and the University community to come and learn here from the variety of people we anticipate hosting,” Wright says.