April 12, 2011
Teresa A. Sullivan became the University of Virginia's eighth president and first female leader on August 1, 2010. On Friday, she will officially be inaugurated into office. UVa has planned several events this week leading up to the ceremony.
"I think the necessity of the inauguration is that these are important ceremonial events in the life of a University," said Sullivan. She added this week is not about her, but about the University. As a result, events this week will focus on highlighting UVa's talent.
On Wednesday, Sullivan is meeting with students at St. Thomas Hall, the Catholic Church on Alderman Road for an interfaith observance. While the event is meant to bring the University together, not everyone is excited about it. Some UVa graduates say Mr. Jefferson would not have approved of a University event in a church.
“An interfaith observance, directly insults Jefferson's vision for the University of Virginia, which he created as a center for and of reason, eschewing any church, chapel or chair of theology," said Dr. Andy Thomson in an e-mail sent to CBS19.
The University responded with the following statement:
“As you know, President Sullivan wanted the inauguration to be as inclusive as possible. There will be events for all members of our University community. The interfaith observance, one of many events this week, is a broad ranging event that includes 80 some University students as well as members of the local community.
"It is true that Jefferson believed in a clear separation of church and state. He was also a strong believer in religious freedom and thrived on all kinds of academic debate, including debates about theology, religious philosophy, and morality.
"We foster a community of caring that is accepting of all members of our community, no matter what their beliefs. An event like this fosters broad understanding of cultures and encourages dialogue and education among people of different backgrounds and experiences. We believe that Thomas Jefferson would have approved.”
Despite the debate, the week provides an opportunity for students to celebrate. “It gives us an organized opportunity to think about ourselves and celebrate,” said Sullivan.
Students will also be celebrating the progress of the University, as Sullivan is the school's first female President. Sullivan was given almost $180,000 by the Alumni Board of Trustees for the event. However, most of the projects and events are free and done with minimal cost.