The Jefferson Society
ΦΠΘ
FoundedJuly 14, 1825; 196 years ago (1825-07-14)
University of Virginia
MottoHaec Olim Meminisse Iuvabit
Colors  Pink,   Gray, and   Blue
Websitejeffersonsociety.org

The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society (commonly known as the Jefferson Society or "Jeff Soc") is the oldest student organization at the University of Virginia, having been founded on July 14, 1825, in Room Seven, West Lawn.[1] As such, it is one of the oldest collegiate societies in North America.[2] It is also the second oldest Greek-lettered organization in the United States, after Phi Beta Kappa. The Society's Greek-letters are Phi Pi Theta - ΦΠΘ, initials for Φίλοί, Πατρίς, θεός (philoi, patris, theos, or "brotherhood, fatherland, divinity"). Its Latin motto, Haec Olim Meminisse Iuvabit, is taken from Virgil's Aeneid and roughly translates to, "In the future it will be pleasing to remember these things."

The Society regularly meets on Friday evenings at Hotel C in the Academical Village, referred to as "Jefferson Hall", "Jeff Hall", or simply "The Hall". Room Seven, West Lawn, is also maintained by the Jefferson Society, selecting a Fourth Year student to live there. The Society hosts several events throughout the year including its Distinguished Speaker Series,[3] for which it invites prominent scholars and speakers across disciplines to address students. The Society also hosts formal social events including Wilson's Day, the Restoration Ball, and Founder's Day, first held in 1832.

Jefferson Hall, Hotel C, West Range
Jefferson Hall, Hotel C, West Range

History

Membership in the Society grew rapidly in the early years after its founding. By 1855, the University of Virginia was the second largest University in the nation after Harvard University, enrolling 645 students. That school year, the Society admitted 155 new members: nearly a quarter of the student body of the University.

In the hotheaded antebellum years, the Society could become raucous. Its elections were condemned by the Faculty for "such turbulence as to degrade the reputation of the University."[4] An especially coveted honor was to be selected as "final orator," a post apparently comparable to that of a valedictorian today.

The Society played a key role in establishing student journalism at the University, founding the University Magazine as early as 1856.[5] Later known as the Virginia Spectator, the paper played a major part in University life for a century, with its profile ranging from high seriousness to satire, until being shut down by the president of the University in the late 1950s for obscenity.[6] The Jefferson Society sponsored the magazine for many decades.[7]

Society Members on the Lawn
Society Members on the Lawn

Also in 1856, the Society expressed its approval of the caning of Charles Sumner by sending Preston Brooks a new gold-headed cane to replace his broken one.[8]

Possessions

Notable Members

Honorary Members

Thomas Jefferson turned down an invitation for honorary membership in an August 12, 1825 letter, citing his need to avoid altering his relationship with the University and its students.[15]

Related

Notes and references

  1. ^ "The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society". The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society.
  2. ^ "University of Virginia - Learn Our Traditions and Lingo". Archived from the original on May 10, 2009.
  3. ^ "Speaker Series". The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. April 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Dabney, p. 12
  5. ^ More, John, History of the Jefferson Society, 1825–1957, noting that the magazine was first mentioned in the Society's minutes in 1865
  6. ^ Dabney, pp. 552, 606
  7. ^ Dabney, p. 181
  8. ^ Puleo, Stephen (2012). The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing LLC. pp. 102, 114–115. ISBN 978-1-59416-516-0.
  9. ^ Harrison, James Albert (1903). The life of Edgar Allan Poe. T.Y. Crowell & Company. pp. 60–61. edgar allan poe jefferson society.
  10. ^ Kraig, Robert Alexander (2004). Woodrow Wilson and the Lost World of the Oratorical Statesman. p. 42.
  11. ^ a b c d "Jefferson Society Famous Members (Revised)" (PDF). University of Virginia Board of Visitors. 2013-11-14.
  12. ^ "UVa President John Casteen Discusses School History with Students". Newsplex.com. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2014-10-06.
  13. ^ "Virginia is for Lovers: Romance at the University". UVA Magazine. Retrieved 2014-10-06.
  14. ^ Gunay, Defne (2004-10-20). "Cavalier Royalty". The Cavalier Daily. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2006-11-09. I played varsity volleyball, I was in the Jefferson Society, A Chi O sorority, U.Dems and I was also an honor advisor.
  15. ^ a b c d "HNAI Long Beach Hard Times Tokens Auction Catalog". 2007. p. 95.