Sign In
Endowments at UVA

Merrill D. Peterson Professorship in the School of Architecture


The Merrill D. Peterson Professorship in the School of Architecture was created through the generosity of Bahman Batmanghelidj, a devoted friend of the University and a longtime admirer of Thomas Jefferson. As a result of Jefferson's commitment to innovation and strong design principles and his sensitivity to the landscape, the Academical Village is the only university setting on the United Nations' World Heritage List. The professorship serves as a tribute to Merrill D. Peterson, U.Va. professor emeritus of history and one of the country's foremost Jeffersonian scholars. In 1961 Professor Peterson was the recipient of the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's gold medal for his book The Jefferson Image in the American Mind.

In January 2014, Elizabeth K. Meyer was elected as the Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture. Professor Meyer completed her two-year Deanship in August 2016 after welcoming and orienting Ila Berman from the University of Waterloo, Toronto, as the School of Architecture's new Dean.

While on sabbatical during the 2016-17 academic year, Meyer completed work advising a small group of School of Architecture faculty and students hired by the National Park Service and the First Lady's Let's Move Office to design and build an addition to the White House Kitchen Garden. This exciting project for a very prominent cultural landscape in Washington, D.C., was opened in early October at an event hosted by Michele Obama. During her sabbatical, Meyer returned to writing a book entitled, The Margins of Modernity, about the emergence of landscape architecture as a new design profession. She undertook research on the book while a Visiting Scholar at Harvard's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Washington, D.C., in the Fall semester. Subsequently, the Director of Dumbarton Oaks invited Meyer to serve as one of their Senior Fellows, an advisory group that selects scholars for annual fellowships, organizes annual symposia and shapes research agendas at Dumbarton Oaks, the most prominent center for landscape studies in the world.

As Director of the University's Center for Cultural Landscapes, Meyer organized our first Sara Shallenberger Brown Cultural Landscape symposium entitled Race and Public Space: Commemorative Practices in the American South. This March 2017 event brought together prominent scholars and practitioners as well as citizens to discuss and to discover new design tactics, spatial practices and interpretative techniques for surfacing more complex narratives about our often contested local and national history.

To read more about the initiative, please visit:

In addition, Meyer received grant funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the UVA Jefferson Trust for a multi-year university-wide Landscape Studies digital humanities initiative that will create a research platform for innovative, cross-disciplinary inquiry into the meaning and experience of design landscapes. This project is a collaboration with faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences as well as the University Library's Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities. Meyer and her colleague, Michael Lee, will co-direct this exciting new project.

Meyer continued to lecture outside the University, including: the introductory keynote at the Landscape Architecture Foundation's 50th anniversary summit in Philadelphia; an international conference in Sweden (Beyond Isms. The Landscape of Landscape Urbanism) where she gave the keynote lecture; and the inaugural lecture at the American Society of Landscape Architecture's new Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C. These talks explored the interconnections between aesthetics, urban landscape design and sustainability. The ASLA talk focused especially on the potential affective power of everyday urban landscape experiences to shape, and be shaped by, extreme weather and climate change.

Meyer's post-Dean sabbatical continues through the fall 2017 semester. She returns to the teaching faculty in spring 2018.

History of Past Recipients and Projects