The University of Virginia began in the head of Thomas Jefferson on January 18, 1800 when he alluded to plans for a new college when he wrote a letter to Joseph Priestley, a British scientist. In the letter he stated that he wanted to college to be established in the upper country of Virginia, and he wanted to build a University that was broad, liberal and modern so as to attract people from other states to it. Even though Virginia already had one university, Jefferson dismissed it because of its religious biases and is lack of proper education in the sciences.
The land that the University of Virginia stands on was purchased by James Monroe in 1788. Jefferson helped guide Monroe to lay the school's first building's cornerstone in late 1817 and two years later the Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the new university on January 25, 1819. Jefferson was toasted as the father of the University of Virginia at the school's inaugural banquet held in 1824. The following March is when classes first met. Jefferson broke the norm by allowing students of the University of Virginia to specialize in more than three choices. He did this because he thought that a university was a place to expand your mind.
A direction that was even more controversial for the University was done through the belief that higher education should be a pursuit entirely separate from religious doctrine and learning. Following this direction, the new grounds were centered with a library instead of the traditional church. Jefferson even attempted to altogether ban the teaching of Theology. Jefferson was so intimately tied to the University of Virginia, that it made mention on his grave. During the winter, the beautiful lawn is covered in snow with tracks running through it.
In 1826, another president became involved in the University by becoming the Rector of the University of Virginia. Around the same time President Monroe moved his home onto the grounds as a member of the Board of Visitors. Both of these presidents remained with the university until their deaths. Jefferson was the only president in United States history to be the founder of a higher learning institution.