Marian Wright Edelman, one of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation medalists, speaks on Founder's Day. James Looney

The University awards no honorary degrees; instead, in partnership with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, it awards Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals each spring. Medalists are chosen for their contributions to society in disciplines that Jefferson held in high regard, says Leslie Greene Bowman, the foundation’s president and chief executive.

Cecil Balmond


Balmond—a Sri Lankan-British engineer, architect, artist and writer—is regarded as one of the world’s leading thinkers on form and structure. His projects include the Centre Pompidou in Metz, France and the Pedro e Inês footbridge in Coimbra, Portugal. He also served as structural engineer for artist Anish Kapoor’s colossal sculptures Cloud Gate and Marsyas. Balmond worked for engineering and design firm Arup until 2010, when he founded his own research-led practice, Balmond Studio.

Marian Wright Edelman

Citizen Leadership

Edelman is a longtime advocate for disadvantaged Americans. In the mid-1960s, after becoming the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Jackson. She later worked for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign and in 1968 founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm. A co-founder in 1973 of the Children’s Defense Fund, an independent advocacy program for poor, minority and disabled children, Edelman continues to serve as the CDF’s president.

John Gleeson (Law '80)


Gleeson is known for his support of criminal justice reforms, often challenging both government plea deals and harsh mandatory sentences, according to the New York Times. He was the lead prosecutor in the 1992 conviction of Mafia boss John Gotti, and in 1994, President Clinton appointed Gleeson a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Gleeson recently stepped down from the bench to join a New York law firm.

Gordon Moore

Global Innovation

Moore, recipient of the inaugural Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in global innovation, is a Silicon Valley legend. After working with Nobel Prize-winning inventors of the transistor and at Fairchild Semiconductor Corp., he co-founded chipmaker Intel with silicon integrated circuit inventor Robert Noyce. Their dynamic random access memory chip became the standard memory device used in computers worldwide.