From top to bottom: Maya Lin, Peter Peterson, Cynthia Kinser

Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, hopes she can get viewers of her art and architecture to think about the natural world in a way they hadn’t before..

Speaking Wednesday at the University of Virginia to mark Founder’s Day, she was one of three notables to win Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals, a joint honor presented by UVA and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Also honored were Cynthia D. Kinser, chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, and Peter G. Peterson, philanthropist and founder of his namesake foundation. The medals are the highest external honor conferred by UVa, which does not grant honorary degrees.

“If Mr. Jefferson were here, he would be getting all three of them,” Kinser quipped during her remarks.

Lin won the medal for architecture, Kinser the medal for law and Peterson the medal for citizen leadership.

Peterson created his foundation with the goal of advocating solutions to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems. Before that, he held a variety of high-level corporate and government posts, including a stint as Secretary of Commerce under President Richard M. Nixon.

Peterson said that America is currently on an unsustainable course.

He also said Jefferson recognized the role of education in building the republic.

“To him, education and statecraft weren’t separate disciplines,” Peterson said.

Kinser, who still tends her own cows, went from rural Southwest Virginia to become the first female chief justice of Virginia. She is a 1977 graduate of the UVa School of Law.

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