Rotunda at dusk

Thomas Jefferson: An In Depth Look At The Man We Have Immortalized

Date & Time

June 23 - 26, 2016


University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA


Check Out the Event Photos on Shutterfly!

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No one looms larger in America’s historic memory than Thomas Jefferson; reportedly no one is quoted more often on the internet. Almost half a million people a year visit his study in architecture at Monticello. One historian, speaking for millions, said that his Declaration of Independence “invent[ed] America.” Peter Onuf, one of America’s leading Jeffersonian scholars, writes that Americans “think they know Jefferson because Jefferson – in visionary moments – seems to know them.” There is a historic intimacy with Jefferson.

Yet, this fixation on Jefferson raises some murkier issues. Beyond the well-worn issue of his slaveholding, he has become the patron saint of radical militias. At the same time, historians and political scientists point out that Jefferson, known as an icon of small government and states’ rights, exercised very broad federal authority and political power when he was president.


John Ragosta, PhD, JD

Summer Jefferson Symposium Faculty Leader

John Ragosta, a historian, lawyer, and award-winning author, has taught law and history at the University of Virginia, George Washington University, Oberlin, Hamilton, and Randolph Colleges. Ragosta has held fellowships at the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and is currently a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Since 2012, Ragosta has successfully led three engaging Summer Jefferson Symposium weekends with participants from around the country.

He authored Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed, released in 2013 by the University of Virginia Press, and Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped to Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty from Oxford University Press in 2010.

Before returning to academia, Ragosta was an international trade and litigation partner at Dewey Ballantine LLP.

He is also a beekeeper.


Hear from John Ragosta in these recorded segments:

Segment on Patrick Henry for the radio w/ Sarah McConnell:

Radio segment on religious freedom for the Thomas Jefferson Hour this past fall:

Richmond Times Dispatch on Religious Freedom Day:

Ragosta posts to the Thoughts From the Lawn blog. Get a glimpse of what’s in store during SJS 2016!

Richard B. Bernstein (R. B. Bernstein)

Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School; Lecturer, Political Science, Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies, Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, City College of New York

R.B. Bernstein graduated from Amherst College in 1977 magna cum laude with a B.A. in American studies and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1980. After three years of practicing law, he left the legal profession to pursue a Ph.D. in history at New York University. Since 1983 he has been a member of the New York University Law School’s Legal History Colloquium.

In 1991 Bernstein started as an assistant adjunct professor, teaching American Legal History and Law & Literature, at New York Law School, where he currently serves as Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Law. From 1997 to 1998 he was the Daniel M. Lyons Visiting Professor of History at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and in 1998 he was a visiting part-time lecturer in history at Rutgers University – Newark.

From 1984 to 1987 Bernstein was the Research Curator for the Constitution Bicentennial Project of The New York Public Library. Among the products of this project was his first book, Are We to Be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution (Harvard University Press, 1987). From 1987 to 1990 he was the staff historian of the New York City Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, and from 1989 to 1990 he was Research Director of the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution.

In 2004 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Society for Legal History, stepping down with the end of his term in 2007.

Bernstein’s publications include Thomas Jefferson (Oxford University Press, 2003), The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (Oxford University Press, 2009) and his most recent, The Founding Fathers: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Dennis Bigelow

Interpreter of President James Monroe

Bigelow tells the story  of America’s last and least known Founding Father. For years he has served as the costumed Monroe interpreter at James Monroe’s Highland, the fifth president’s home, just three miles from Jefferson’s Monticello and a day’s horseback ride from Madison’s Montpelier. Bigelow was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on land once owned by Monroe and later the grounds of The University of Virginia.  In 1817, Monroe and Madison laid the cornerstone for “Mr. Jefferson’s University.”  Bigelow is a fourth generation graduate of The University, the first being his gg grandfather, Lt. Col. Charles Marshall CSA, grandnephew of Chief Justice John Marshall, Revolutionary War comrade of James Monroe. Col. Marshall was the only Confederate officer to accompany his cousin, Gen. Robert E. Lee, to the McLean House at Appomattox for the surrender of the Army of Northern VA to Gen. U.S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Bigelow’s participation in the 150th remembrance, covered this 2015 by C-Span, was followed by remarks from Senator Tim Kaine, Governor Terry McAuliffe and Civil War Historian Bud Robertson.

A Fortune 500 communications specialist in New York City for such clients as The American Gas Association, AT&T and E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Bigelow has also worked since 1989 as a Screen Actors Guild performer.  In 1994, he was elected vice president of The Veterans Hospital Radio and Television Guild, a national charity recognized by Veterans Affairs “for its effectiveness in drama therapy with hospitalized vets.”  Weekly, he and fellow actors encouraged patients, some suffering from PTSD, to put on their own shows, which would be recorded and sometimes piped into restricted wards of the hospital. Bigelow served as a U.S. Marine officer, 1967-70, with an assignment to Armed Forces Radio and TV in Okinawa before going to Vietnam.

For the past 15 years Bigelow has performed as “President Monroe” at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, an agency established for training rising federal employees as well as providing an orientation for USAID workers prior to foreign deployment.  His dramatic work creates a platform for discussing constitutional and leadership challenges, enabling participants to draw parallels between past and present. His presentations require an intimate knowledge of domestic and world history from 1758 to Monroe’s death on July 4, 1831 – five years to the day from the death of Thomas Jefferson and the father of Monroe’s closest cabinet officer, the succeeding president, John Quincy Adams.

“President Monroe” responds to all participant questions in character.  Programs are enriched with periodic collaboration with other seasoned costumed historical interpreters, particularly “Mr. Jefferson” and “Mr. Madison.”

Bigelow teaches “James Monroe, Last Founding Father” with dramatic finale, at the University of Virginia’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and performs for The Virginia Center for Politics and the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at The University of Virginia, and for Elderhostel’s “Road Scholars.” His work has taken him from Charlottesville to audiences of varied requirements from Washington, D.C. to Sackets Harbor, NY, to St. Augustine, FL, to West Branch, Iowa, to Houston, Texas and west to San Francisco and L.A.

For borrowed interest in researching “Colonel Monroe,” Bigelow draws on family lore and the memories of his great, great grandmother Marshall through his 105 year-old maternal great aunt, who catalogued information about the family’s relationship to Thomas Jefferson’s second cousin, Chief Justice John Marshall, her ancestral uncle, and James Monroe’s friend for over 60 years.

Having performed at the Governor’s mansion of Virginia and with other presidential interpreters for White House employees in Colonial Williamsburg in 2003, it is Bigelow’s hope to bring an even richer “President Monroe” to the White House itself during the bicentennial of the Monroe presidency, 2017-25.

Click for an interview with Bob Corso from WHSV TV Channel 3, in Harrisonburg, VA.  Bigelow’s work has been praised by his audiences as being “informative, humorous, lively and very engaging.”  As one attendee enthused, “Mr. Monroe really makes history come alive.”

Sara Bon-Harper

Executive Director, James Monroe’s Highland

Sara Bon-Harper is the Executive Director of James Monroe’s Highland, the home of James Monroe in Albemarle County, Virginia. She has held this position since September 2012, working on strategic vision and daily operations of the site, which is a department of the College of William & Mary.

Bon-Harper earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Classics from the University of Arizona. She has taught at the University of Virginia as well as the University of North Carolina, and has conducted archaeological research and trained archaeological students in Europe and North America. Before coming to James Monroe’s Highland, she worked as Archaeological Research Manager at Monticello (1999-2012), where she led a team investigating lost elements of the plantation landscape, and developed a passion for reaching multiple audiences through the interpretation of research about the past. Her prior research focused on Roman peripheries in Italy and France, and on the disenfranchised in state societies, with topical expertise in archaeological ceramics and research methods.

Bon-Harper has lectured and written on a variety of themes, including the analysis of archaeological data, landscapes of slavery, and the construction of historic narratives. Her current focus at James Monroe’s Highland is sharing the relevance of James Monroe in U.S. history, and broadening interest in the exploration of the past. She serves on the State Review Board for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Christa Dierksheide

Lecturer, Corcoran Department of History, UVA

Christa Dierksheide specializes in the history of the Age of Revolutions, with a special focus on Jefferson.  She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Virginia.  Her book, Amelioration and Empire:  Progress and Slavery in Plantation America, 1770-1840 (University of Virginia Press, 2014) examines how planters embraced the European Enlightenment idea of “improvement” on New World plantations.  She has conceptualized and written exhibitions for Monticello, including “The Boisterous Sea of Liberty” and “The Landscape of Slavery: Mulberry Row at Monticello”, and is also co-author of “Thomas Jefferson’s Worlds,” the introductory film.  In addition, she has served as the Monticello faculty lead for teacher institutes and executive leadership seminars focused on Jefferson, including President Obama’s signature program, the Mandela Washington Fellows.

Dierksheide is also a lecturer in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, where she teaches undergraduate seminars on Jefferson and Monticello.  Her current work examines the creation of the American empire in the nineteenth century through the lens of Thomas Jefferson’s grandchildren, both black and white, focusing on how his family members made sense of his imperial vision in far-flung areas that included Florida, Arkansas, Cuba, Mexico, and China.

Jody Lahendro

Historic Preservation Architect with UVA’s Facilities Planning & Construction

Joseph Dye Lahendro has been a Historic Preservation Architect in U.Va.’s Facilities Planning & Construction Department for more than nine years, managing work on the University’s more than 100 designated historic buildings, including the Academical Village. Previously he had his own architectural practice in Richmond for 18 years, specializing in historic preservation, restoration and adaptive reuse. He also served as preservation architect for the Taliesin Preservation Commission as it began its charge to preserve Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Spring Green, Wis. Lahendro received his bachelor of architecture degree from Virginia Tech, and his master’s in architectural history from U.Va.

Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Vice President, Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Saunders; Director, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello; Professor, History, UVA

Andrew O’Shaughnessy is the Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, as well as a Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (2000) as well as his new work, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (2013).

He has lectured widely to both scholarly and general audiences. He is an editor of the Jeffersonian American Series published by the University of Virginia Press; a member of the advisory board of the Founding Fathers’ Libraries Project; a member of the advisory board of the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution; and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Most recent prestigious book awards:
2014 George Washington Book Prize
New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize

Thursday June 23, 2016
CHECK-IN  12:00 pm – 3:00 pm Location TBD
First Rotunda Tour Tours open to first 35 registered participants.

Jody Lahendro, Historic Preservation Architect with UVA’s Facilities Planning & Construction

Second Rotunda Tour
Third Rotunda Tour
Board bus for Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards 5:30 pm
Reception & Introductions John Ragosta
Lecture 1 – Why the Study of Jefferson Still Remains Necessary Andrew O’Shaughnessy
Return to Grounds by 10:00 pm
Friday June 24, 2016
Breakfast 7:30 am The Garden Room
Board bus for James Monroe’s Highland 9:00 am
Tour of James Monroe’s Highland
Lecture 2 – Political Enemies John Ragosta
Lunch – Special Guest Dennis Bigelow, Interpreter of President James Monroe
Lecture 3 – Legacies and Alliances: Monroe and Madison Sara Bon-Harper
Stroll James Monroe’s Highland before boarding the bus
Board bus for Morven 5:00 pm
Tour of Morven
Lecture 4 – Standard for Judging Founders R.B. Bernstein
Return to Grounds by 10:00 pm
Saturday June 25, 2016
Breakfast 7:30 am The Garden Room
Lecture 5 – Reconsidering Jefferson and Slavery Christa Dierksheide – Minor Hall
Lecture 6 – Thomas Jefferson as a Politician R.B. Bernstein – Minor Hall
Lunch Newcomb Hall, South Meeting Room
Lecture 7/Documents John Ragosta – Albert & Shirley Small Collections Library
Afternoon break on your own
Board bus for Dinner 6:00 pm
Lecture 8/Interaction – Revisiting Conor O’Brien’s Article “Thomas Jefferson: Radical and Racist” (Oct. 1996, Atlantic) John Ragosta
Return to Grounds by 10:00 pm
Sunday June 26, 2016
Breakfast 8:00 am The Garden Room
Certificates & Farewells
Registration and Lodging

Participants may register to stay on Grounds at Lambeth Field Apartments or on the Lawn. Alternatively, participants may arrange their own lodging accommodations. We welcome participants 18 years or older. No pets allowed.

Physical Capabilities:
This is a moderately active seminar that requires some walking on uneven terrain, climbing steps, and prolonged standing. We will follow a leisurely pace on the seminar, but it is entirely up to individuals to pace themselves according to their own capabilities. It is always possible to choose not to participate in certain seminar activities. We strongly recommend that you consult your personal physician about your health and the likelihood of experiencing any problems with the physical requirements of this symposium. Also discuss any necessary precautions that you should take prior to attending.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellation and Refund Policy and Form

Registration Fees:

On Grounds: $1,295 per person (includes lodging, all meals, parking, shuttle from Grounds to and from events, lectures, tours and exhibits)
Off Grounds: $1,095 per person (includes all meals, parking, shuttle from Grounds to and from events, lectures, tours and exhibits)

On Grounds Lodging Options:

Lodging on Grounds is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis. All guests staying in dorm rooms must be registered seminar participants.

Lambeth Field Apartments are air-conditioned, furnished with a bed, desk and chair, wardrobe and dresser and include a living room, kitchen and ensuite bathroom.

The Lawn rooms are furnished with a bed, desk and rocking chair and include a sink (shared bathrooms/showers outside dorm rooms). Additionally, most rooms have a fireplace. No air-conditioning, kitchen or study lounges are available.

What’s included in rooms: Beds are furnished with a mattress cover, pillow, blanket, bedspread and a bed linen package, which includes one pillow case and two sheets. Guests are provided with two bath towels, a washcloth, and bath mat. Wi-Fi internet is available. The housekeeping staff will remove trash from the bedroom and common areas and sanitize the bathrooms on weekdays only. Rooms are not equipped with hangers, iron or ironing board, or hair dryers. Guests are responsible for making their own bed and supplying their own personal items including shampoo, soap, etc.

Off Grounds Lodging Options:

If staying in a hotel, individuals must make their own reservations. A limited number of hotel rooms have been blocked for Summer Jefferson Symposium. Call one of the hotel choices below to reserve your room and mention the group block name. Reserve your room early to ensure availability and pricing. Room blocks only available through May 20, 2016.

The Cavalier Inn at the University
105 N. Emmet St., Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: 434-296-8111

Group Block Name: “Summer Jefferson Symposium”

Nightly Rate:
$105 per night

Check In Time: TBD (June 23)
Check Out Time: TBD (June 26)

The Graduate Charlottesville
1309 W Main St., Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: 434-295-4333

Group Block Name: “Summer Jefferson Symposium”

Nightly Rate:
$167 per night

Check In Time: TBD (June 23)
Check Out Time: TBD (June 26)