link to U.Va. Library homepage James Madison, Unsung Hero of the University

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which Knowledge gives.
J. M. to William T. Barry, 4 August 1822


March 16, 2001 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of James Madison (1751 - 1836). During this anniversary year, many will be celebrating Madison as the "Father of the Constitution" and the nation's fourth president. At the University of Virginia there are additional reasons to remember this Founding Father with gratitude, for he is truly an unsung hero of the University. Overshadowed by the tremendous contributions made by Thomas Jefferson to establish the University, Madison's role is often overlooked, although he worked closely with Jefferson to realize his vision for an institution of higher education to prepare students for their responsibilities as citizens of the new Republic. After Jefferson's death in 1826, just over a year after the University opened its doors to students, Madison was elected the University's second Rector and guided the University through its fledgling period of development, a period marked by financial difficulties, the departure of several of its first faculty, and episodes of disruptive student unruliness.

Portrait of Madison (1817, painted by Joseph Wood)
His bequest in 1836 of $1,500 (equivalent to over $24,000 today) established the library's first endowment, which still provides funds annually for the purchase of books. In his will Madison also offered the University the contents of his own extensive library to further enlarge the University Library's collections, evidence that he shared Jefferson's view of the library as central to the University's mission.

Additional sources of information about James Madison:

The Papers of James Madison
The Dolley Madison Project
Montpelier, The Home of James Madison
James Madison Museum


Madison Home | Intro | Partner | Protector | Patron

Maintained by:
Library Home | Search the Library Web
Last Modified: Last modified:
© The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia