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Summer on Grounds

When all goes well, life at UVA in the summer is quiet. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. There are still summer classes, and for some people at the University, the summer is one of the busiest times. Here’s a snapshot of some of what happened on Grounds this summer.

The Chapel

Lauren Rogers Photography

The chapel has at least one event booked every day during the summer months, including Mass, concerts, student activities, memorials and weddings. Getting married at the chapel can be difficult because so many alumni, faculty and staff members want to do so, according to event coordinator Dorothy Lippincott. She says it’s common to get a flood of bookings at the stroke of midnight one year before the proposed date—the farthest in advance one can book. Saturdays are the most popular day, with as many as four ceremonies in one day. Despite limited parking and no restrooms, nostalgia wins out. “We get emails saying, ‘This is very special to us,’” Lippincott says. “Their heart is so into getting married at UVA.” And a special rate for alumni, faculty and staff—$350 for two hours—seals the deal.

Lawn Work

Whitelaw Reid

Years of cement and paint repairs have caught up with the columns on the Lawn. To eradicate moisture that has compromised their structural integrity, specially trained masons have begun a stripping and recoating process that fourth-year Andrew Ashcraft (Arch ’18)—who is working as a summer intern—calls “fascinating.” “They look uniform when they’re all painted white,” Ashcraft says, “but when you peel it off, you can see a patch that was done in the 1950s right next to 1820s material. Based on what the paints were made out of, you can tell how old it was and what period it dates to.” The columns are being recoated with a lime render that is similar to the one Jefferson preferred, according to Senior Historic Preservation Planner Brian Hogg (Col ’83). Hogg says the goal is to do 10 to 12 columns every summer, though he expects the restorations to bleed into the fall. Down the road, a decision will need to be made about whether or not to paint the columns. “Right now, we’re just letting the columns dry out before we take any further steps,” Hogg says. Other projects on the Lawn this summer: Pavilion 6 was renovated in June and July in preparation for Ila Berman, the dean of the School of Architecture, to move in; plumbing and heating was replaced at Old Cabell Hall; a permanent projector, screen, and new lights were installed in the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium; and, as part of a planned storm water project for next summer, an archaeology dig commenced on the east side of the Lawn, turning up an old well.

Summer Orientation

Dan Addison

Thousands of incoming UVA students flood Grounds for 10 two-day sessions during July and August. In addition to getting a lay of the land, students meet with deans and academic advisers, take language placement exams, sign up for classes, receive their student IDs, learn about Greek life, and take part in Late Night Fun at the Aquatics and Fitness Center, an evening of activities that include a Zumba class, basketball, a night hike and pizza. Most students stay overnight in the Alderman Road Residence Area. Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin estimates that more than 90 percent of incoming students attend orientation. “It just relieves a lot of stress and anxiety,” Lampkin says. “It gives them a chance to get acquainted, so that when they’re here, they really can get into their academics and focus as quickly as they can.”

UVA Reunions

Tom Daly

Over the first two weekends in June, the Alumni Association welcomed more than 5,000 alumni and guests back to Grounds. Here, they reconnected with classmates and the University through class events, seminars, student organization receptions, tours and more. The annual event celebrates the 5th through 60th anniversaries of the undergraduate classes. The 35th–60th reunion classes and the Thomas Jefferson Society celebrated June 1–4, and the 5th–30th reunion classes returned to Grounds June 8–11. According to Reunion Programs Director Cate Liverman (Col ’08), 28 alumni speakers were featured, 72 Lawn rooms were reserved (twice), 92 student organization receptions were hosted and 184 kegs of beer and 9,408 bottles of water were consumed during this year’s festivities.


Steve Hedberg

Between camps and recruiting, the summer gets hectic for many Virginia coaches. Coaches Tony Bennett and Joanne Boyle held their annual basketball camps for children in June. Bennett had two sessions for kids ages 7 to 14, while Boyle conducted one for kids 5 to 8 and another for kids 8 to 18. July is one of the busiest months of the year for both of them. Boyle says she typically logs more than 4,500 miles as she travels the country to watch players during the key recruiting period. In August, the team was set to travel to Costa Rica for exhibition games. “Virginia Basketball never stops and we love it!” Boyle says. Meanwhile, the football, soccer, cross country and volleyball teams began practicing in preparation for their fall seasons. In July, football coach Bronco Mendenhall, hoping to improve on an inaugural campaign in which the Cavaliers went 2-10, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, for ACC football media day. “I’m working as hard as I can every single day with players that I love, and who are starting to grasp what [it’s] going to take in year two,” Mendenhall told reporters.

Student Housing

Steve Hedberg

Multiple dorm renovation projects progressed at various stages, notably to first-year residence halls Gooch and Dillard. Dillard was closed all of last year, while Gooch was closed the year before. Finishing touches were put on the $32 million endeavor in July and August. Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Gay Perez says students wanted double rooms. To that end, they removed walls, turning singles into doubles. In addition, study and social lounges were completely remodeled. Outside, green space was added via a courtyard; a fire pit and hammock area was created; and ADA accessible paths were built. Perez is looking forward to seeing students’ reactions. “It’s going to be gorgeous,” she says. “I think they’re going to be wowed.”

Construction Projects

Steve Hedberg

Summertime is anything but a vacation for people in facilities management. Keeping track of the numerous projects—many that ramp up while most students are gone—is quite the challenge, according to Associate Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer Don Sundgren. Here are some of the largest projects that rumbled around Grounds this summer:

  • The $400 million University Hospital expansion project has continued. The addition of approximately 425,000 square feet will mean a larger emergency department and more operating rooms and inpatient beds. The project is expected to be completed in phases between 2018 and 2020, according to Sundgren.
  • A $187 million renovation of Gilmer Hall and the Chemistry Building began in the spring. “It’s bringing the space up to today’s research standards,” Sundgren says, “and, hopefully, up to tomorrow’s.”
  • Phase 2 of the $105 million McCormick Road Houses renovations, expected to take 14 months, commenced in May. Additions include air conditioning and elevators.
  • Other notable projects: A new water main under Emmett and Ivy running to the International Residence College, allowing for new bathrooms and air conditioning; a new grandstand, suites and entryway at Davenport Field; and new insulation under the roof of Memorial Gymnasium.

Student Dining

Steve Hedberg

Runk Dining at Hereford College underwent a $5 million renovation over the summer. The big addition: a new wood stone pizza oven, the flames of which can be seen through a viewing window as diners walk into the building. Runk will feature a new international food station that will serve 16 cuisines in 16 weeks (roughly the length of a semester), starting with Lebanese dishes the first week of the fall semester. “These are unique cuisines that won’t be served anywhere else on Grounds,” says UVA Director of Dining Matt Smythe. There will also be a bakery and an allergy-friendly/gluten-free station in which all the ingredients in dishes have been vetted. Cushioned seating and power outlets have been added to encourage students to come and stay for longer periods of time. “Runk hadn’t been renovated in many years, and so it was time,” Smythe says.

Whitelaw Reid is a staff writer for Virginia Magazine.