he is perhaps best known as the author of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an online political newsletter that combines his “tell it how it is” style with the nonpartisan analysis and wit only a university professor like him can provide.
Although his gift will benefit all of the Center’s programs by endowing them for future students and practitioners of politics, Larry has said
that he hopes that other alumni and friends of the University of Virginia will be called to make a gift to allow the Center to establish a permanent home at the Birdwood Pavilion. Located next to the golf course of
the same name on US Route 250,
two miles west of Charlottesville, Birdwood was built in 1819 for William Garth by many of the same carpenters that worked at Monticello and the University. Over the years. previous tenants undertook many renovations, but the estate still serves as an example of Thomas Jefferson’s enduring influence on architecture throughout the Virginia Piedmont. The basement and upper floors of the estate will serve as the new home of the Center for Politics upon completion of extensive renovations, while the main floor will then serve as a public area for classrooms and meetings as an extension of Mr. Jefferson’s academical village. With nearly 12,000 square feet on three levels, and with a variety of outbuildings and support houses, Birdwood will provide an ideal setting in which the Center can fulfill its mission.
After he announced his donation
to the University Board of Visitors
on the first floor of the Rotunda, he proceeded upstairs where four of the Shannon’s five daughters joined him as he dedicated his gift to the Center for Politics in the name of their father. “How lucky I was to have
had such a humane and brilliant mentor. Inspired by his example, I first promised him some 30 years ago that I would try to make a substantial gift to the University, should life give me the opportunity. I’m delighted to fulfill that promise,” he read with trepidation from his prepared remarks.
For many, hearing Larry Sabato stumble over prepared remarks was a surprising departure from the flawless sound bites that have become his trademark in countless television appearances; and radio spots; and newspaper quotes. After all, he has been called everything by everybody. “The Mark McGuire of political analysts,” according to the Washington Post; is “America’s favorite political scientist,” by the Fox News Channel, and “probably the most quoted college professor in the land,” by the Wall Street Journal. Washingtonian
Magazine called him the “Dr. Phil of American politics.” He is the author of over 20 books and countless essays on the American political process.
But even with all that notoriety, as Larry presented his announcement to the University, it took time for the nervousness to subside. He rarely talks to public audiences about his personal life, but he finally found his stride. “Students need to remember later in life how fortunate they have been to have ‘worn the honors of honor,’ and faculty and administrators would be well advised to recall and imitate the shining example of Edgar Shannon with our students.
“Every University alumnus has favorite causes, as well as cherished memories of certain professors, departments, and student organizations. The capital campaign gives each of us the opportunity to create a legacy somewhere within this wonderfully diverse University.”
To a certain degree, he recognizes that a chapter in his life is coming to a close. Until he was rewarded with a coveted spot on the Lawn in Pavilion IV, he had lived in the same house with the same furniture since he started teaching in Charlottesville.
After saving for nearly 30 years to make a substantial gift to the University, working nights and weekends on his research, and making time to sit down with any student who needed some words of advice, a new chapter begins. His days are the same as before, teaching, speaking, researching and writing, but now he knows his Center for Politics is on sound footing for well after his time as political pundit is over. The favorite phrase of his mentor, Edgar Shannon, has become a familiar one for him around the Grounds of the University: “Alumni need to ‘step up to the plate.’”
Larry Sabato has set an example for how all friends of the University can contribute. Fellow alumni, too, must remember the importance of the University in their lives, and make plans to repay her for all her gifts as well. VR
For more information:
Tara L. Saylor
Center for Politics
Director of Development
2400 Old Ivy Rd.
Box 400806
Charlottesville, VA 22904
(434) 924-5706