Beyond Making the Grade: Student and Life success at UVA (in 1854 and 2022)

As students approach their final exams for the Fall of 2022, Manuscript and Archives
processor Ellen Welch is pleased to share an original letter from a new acquisition of the Bennett Taylor Papers (MSS 9221), written in 1854 from a father giving advice to his son, a University of Virginia student. These letters were donated by Elizabeth Kirk Page—a descendant of the Jefferson and Randolph family—to the Small Special Collections Library in October 2018.

The letter was written by John Charles Randolph Taylor (1812-1875) to his son Bennett Taylor (1836-1898), a student in February 1854. Taylor is also a great-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson through his mother Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph Taylor, (1817-1857). Mr. Taylor advises Bennett to engage in student learning that extends beyond test scores and grades.

I love the advice in this letter because it reminds me of how my father used to counsel me when I was a college student—telling me to savor my years of learning as if I were drinking a fine glass of wine! While we may forget a test score, we remember personal and meaningful connections with faculty, students, and academic concepts for a lifetime. As the University community nears the end of this semester, it is good to focus on those connections that can enrich your life forever.

“My dearest Boy,

I received your letter of the 10th & again your letter of the 13th. I am not

disappointed at your finding the examinations harder than you expected. I do not think

success at the University at all necessary to our future success in life. The main object

to be aimed at in after life, it seems to me, is to be good & useful & to perform faithfully

& diligently the duties which accident & your own inclination point out to you. A certain

amount of this world’s goods is necessary to every man. This amount is always attain-

able by every industrious man who does not allow himself to be led away by the temp-

tations which surround him. The mode & manner of attaining this independence

must always depend upon the circumstances of natural talent, capacity for

study, & consequent acquirement, which belong to the individual. Success at college

is often injurious because the recipient of college honors is often inclined to rest

on his [ears]! I look upon the knowledge acquired during your college life of your own

self, as not the least important result which is to be attained. It will be a great

pleasure to me, I confess, for you to graduate with credit in your different classes, &

I still hope that you will be able to do so, by using due diligence. Your after course,

in entering upon the success of life, must as you must see, depend on the

amount of knowledge which you may acquire, & the training which your mind

will receive, during the next four years, & it is most important to you to bring

out your full capacity during that time. My impression is that you ought not

to be discouraged by the late examinations, but that you ought to devote yourself

with all your powers, & systematically, to Latin, French, & Spanish, & endeavor to

make yourself a good graduate in each of these classes at the present session.

In your Greek & Mathematical classes, I would give them sufficient study to insure my

standing well in them in the recitation room and [exam], & give all my extra time to the

three first named, if I were you. If you have not written to me, write to say how

you found the examinations in French & Spanish- & also, the examination in

mathematics, when that takes places. Write to me what you think of my suggestion

about your studies…”

Your most affectionate father

J.C.R. Taylor

Bennett Taylor graduated from the University of Virginia, became a Lieutenant Colonel in the American Civil War, and survived being a prisoner at Johnson Island in Lake Erie, New York. He was a clerk for the Circuit Court, a Justice for the Peace, a Town Magistrate, an attorney, and a husband and father of six children. While he was far from being wealthy—in fact, he struggled to pay his rent—by all known accounts he had a rich and fulfilling life. The Bennett Taylor papers include letters from his grandmother Jane Hollins Randolph (1798-1871), and his great aunt Ellen Wayles Coolidge (1796-1876), granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson.

Some of the letters can also be read online created via Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Bennett Taylor also collected autographed comments of friendship and signatures from his Kappa Alpha brothers and fellow students at the University of Virginia in an autograph album which is also in our University Archives collection (RG-30/17/1.821).

Check out the related Edgehill Randolph family collection (MSS 5533-e)—these collections give a close-up view of the attitudes and lives of people that lived in our town during another time, sharing past knowledge into our present.








Keeping Score: The 1981-1982 Virginia Cavaliers Men’s Basketball Team

We are very excited to share some photographs of the 1981-1982 Virginia Cavaliers Men’s basketball team transferred from the University’s Athletic department and now housed in our Small Special Collections Library. This blog post was contributed by Ellen Welch (Manuscripts and Archives Processor at the Small Special Collections Library) and her husband, Peter Welch (University of Virginia Library Information Technology Department). Both Ellen and Peter are longtime fans of UVA basketball and have attended games since the 1970s!

A contact sheet of black and white photographs from the basketball game.

A contact sheet of photographs from the December 2, 1981 UVA game against Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. There are thousands of photographs of UVA sports, events, and life from 1965 – 1973 in the photographic files of University photographer Dave Skinner / University of Virginia Printing Services Photograph File and Index (RG-5/7/2.762).

The 1981–82 University of Virginia Cavaliers Men’s basketball team—members of the Division 1 ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference)—held the top seed in the Mideast Region of the 48-team NCAA Tournament (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and made it to the Sweet Sixteen until they were upset by just two points, losing to the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB). The Mideast bracket followed with UAB losing to Louisville 75-68 and Georgetown beating Louisville 50-46. In the finals of the tournament, Georgetown lost 63-62 against UVA’s longtime rival, Dean Smith’s University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Many basketball players who later rose to national prominence were introduced that year, including UVA’s Ralph Sampson, who played for the University from 1979-1983 before going professional in the National Basketball Association (NBA); North Carolina Tar Heel and Los Angeles Laker James Worthy (“Big Game James”); Sam Perkins; and one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan.

In the 1981-82 NCAA tournament, Curry Kirkpatrick’s article “Sweet 16 and the 32 Who Missed” describes Virginia’s win over Tennessee to get into the round of sixteen:

…Give the Cavaliers a D—D for the desire of Othell Wilson, who played on one leg and with one painful thigh bruise, and D for the determination of Ricky Stokes, who drilled the two winning free throws in Virginia’s 54-51 escape in Indianapolis from the mechanical clutches of Tennessee. Oh yes, and add another D for Ralph Sampson’s defense on Dale Ellis, who shot up the Cavaliers until Sampson shut him down. Jeff Jones suggested the move in the huddle and what it did was disrupt the Tennessee tempo—”He made Dale pull the string,” said Vol Coach Don DeVoe—wipe out a 10-point deficit and give control of the game to the Cavs. …Four straight Sampson buckets, a 51-51 tie and shortly a Virginia freeze. Stokes got a high-five from Wilson just before he went to the line for his crucial free throws.

Ricky Stokes (who clocked in at a height of 5’ 10) said, “Ralph and I have the same initials, I can use his monogrammed handkerchiefs, but not his shirts.” Ralph Sampson was the tallest player on the team (7′ 4).

The 1981-82 team had several freshman recruits—including Jimmy Miller, Tim Mullen, Dan Merrifield, and Kenny Johnson—because Jeff Lamp, Lee Raker, and Terry Gates had graduated. Mullen and Miller were solid role players for the next four years. The surprise player that season was walk-on Kenton Edelin (#30) who played good defense off the bench as a backup forward and center behind basketball star Sampson. Edelin went on to be a good role player the next two years and eventually played in the NBA. Jeff Jones was the starting point guard with Ricky Stokes backing him up and Othell Wilson was the other starting guard. They all played good defense and good team basketball. Tim Mullen started every game that year as a freshman. Craig Robinson was the other starter at forward. They won 30 games but had a disappointing loss in the NCAA tournament to UAB in the 2nd round. They had to play UAB on their home court at Birmingham so that didn’t help. Ralph Sampson averaged 15 points per game that season, which is high scoring, but only taps the potential for a guy who could dominate the game. He scored up to 30 points when he played in the NBA. Sampson declared for the NBA draft after the 1981-1982 season but ultimately decided to return for one more season with the Cavaliers. His final season was the last before the institution of the shot clock rule which kept teams from unfairly holding the ball until the last second of the game. The 3-point shot was also introduced that year in ACC games. The next year—their first year after Sampson had graduated—UVA made it to the Final Four. Go figure? Great things were to come for the Virginia Cavaliers, particularly winning the NCAA tournament in 2019 under coach Tony Bennett.

Black and white action shot photographs from contact sheet of Othell Wilson and Jim Miller shooting baskets in the game.

Left: Othell Wilson (#11) goes for a dunk with freshman forward Jim Miller(#4) assisting on the shot. Right: Wilson makes another shot. Two points! From the University of Virginia Printing Services Photograph File and Index (RG-5/7/2.762).

Shown here are scenes from a regular season game on December 2, 1981 where the UVA Wahoos (formally called the Cavaliers, but familiarly called the “Wahoos” or “Hoos”) defeated Randolph-Macon in Ashland, Virginia 82-50. The Cavaliers were coached by Terry Holland with assistant coaches Craig Littlepage and Jim Larranaga. It was star player Ralph Sampson’s sophomore year although he was not in the lineup for this game. High scorers of the 1981-82 season were Ralph Sampson (15.8 points per game), Othell Wilson (11.4), Craig Robinson (9.7), and Jeff Jones (8.2). Jeff Jones was a prolific passer and had 598 assists.

The team members consisted of:

  • Number 4 Jim Miller, forward 6’8 Freshman
  • Number 10 Craig Robinson, forward 6’8 Junior
  • Number 11 Othell Wilson, guard 6’0 Sophomore
  • Number 12 Dean Carpenter, forward/center 6’9 Senior
  • Number 14 Ricky Stokes, guard 5’10 Sophomore
  • Number 21 Jim Runcie, guard 6’1 Freshman
  • Number 24 Jeff Jones, point guard and team captain 6’4 Senior
  • Number 30 Kenton Edelin, forward 6’7 Sophomore
  • Number 32 Doug Newburg, guard 6’2 Junior
  • Number 33 Kenny Johnson, guard 6’0 Freshman
  • Number 42 Peter MacBeth, forward 6’9 Junior
  • Number 45 Tim Mullen, guard, forward 6’5 Freshman
  • Number 51 Dan Merrifield, forward 6’6 Freshman
  • Number 55 Ralph Sampson, center 7’4 Junior

UVA Basketball History:

Informal portrait of Pop Lannigan in coat outdoors.

Henry “Pop” Lannigan. Image courtesy of George Seitz.

Henry “Pop” Lannigan started the University of Virginia basketball program in 1905 and had a successful season until his death in 1930. He accumulated a dominant overall record of 254–95 (.728 winning percentage) over twenty-four seasons as the UVA head coach.







Portrait of Gus Tebell in Virginia sweater.

Gustave “Gus” Kenneth Tebell. University of Virginia Visual History Collection (prints00568).

Gustave “Gus” Kenneth Tebell was the coach from 1930 to 1951, achieving his first championship in just his second year. During his tenure, he compiled a 240–190 record, including a National Invitation Tournament berth in 1941.

After a series of coaches with more losses than wins, the Cavalier regained success under Terry Holland who began coaching in 1974. He had a winning record of 326–173. His tenure at Virginia (through 1990) also included 1981 and 1984 Final Four appearances, a 1980 National Invitation Tournament championship, Virginia’s first of three ACC Tournament championships (1976), and two ACC Coach of the Year awards. In addition to all-star Ralph Sampson, there were many great basketball players during Coach Holland’s career, including brothers Ricky and Bobby Stokes, Barry Parkhill, Marc Iaveroni, Lee Raker, John Crotty, Wally Walker, Jeff Lamp, and many others.

Black and white photograph of Coach Terry Holland and other coaches and players sitting on bench.

Coach Terry Holland (second to the left) with the Virginia Cavaliers coaching staff at the Randolph-Macon College game, December 2, 1981.

Coach Tony Bennett became head basketball coach at UVA in 2009 and led the Cavaliers to their first NCAA Tournament Championship in 2019. Bennett came to Charlottesville after spending the previous three seasons as the head coach at Washington State, where he was the 2007 National Coach of the Year. Bennett was named one of the 2011 Summit League’s (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference) Top 30 Distinguished Contributors for the league’s first 30 years at the Division I level. In January of 2016, Bennett was part of the Summitt League’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.  Bennett is a three-time recipient of the Henry Iba Award, two-time Naismith College Coach of the Year, two-time AP Coach of the Year, and four-time ACC Coach of the Year. He was named to a list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine. By 2019, Bennett was a three-time National Coach of the Year. This year, he enters his 13th year as the Dean and Markel Families Men’s Head Basketball Coach at the University of Virginia. As of the 2021-22 season, Virginia has had ten consecutive winning conference seasons, the longest active streak among ACC programs.

Photograph of Tony Bennett with championship game basketball net.

Tony Bennett, Dean and Markel Families Men’s Basketball Head Coach. (Photo by Matt Riley, UVA Athletics)

Tonight—November 9, 2021— the Virginia Cavaliers Men’s basketball team opens their season with a game against Navy at John Paul Jones Arena. We hope to see you there!


Ala-Birmingham, Louisville get by Sampson, Breuer” Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. March 19, 1982. p. 24.

1981–82 Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team, Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/27/2021.

Martin, Steve, “UAB Blazers slay giant Virginia”. Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). March 19, 1982. p. 12.

 Wilson, Austin,  “UAB stuns Virginia with 68-66 triumph”. Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. March 19, 1982, p. 10

Jeff Jones Basketball, Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/28/2021.

Wysong, David, “The Game Michael Jordan Changed Everyone’s Perception of Him” Tweet and Facebook, March 29, 2020

Teel, David, “Victory over UNC elevates UVA’s Bennett into rare company“. Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 13, 2021. Note that the article mentions it was the second-longest at the time, before Duke failed to achieve a winning record in that season

Tony Bennett, Dean and Markel Families Men’s Head Basketball Coach. Virginia Sports.

Payne, Terrence, “Tony Bennett signs a seven-year deal with Virginia.” NBC Sports Jun 3, 2014.

Filling in the Gaps of Our History – Archiving Student Life for the Third Century Workshop

This week we are pleased to welcome a guest post by Aasritha S. Natarajan, who is a third year majoring in Biology and Cognitive Science with a minor in History

Imagine being able to document all the works of 900+ CIOs and student organizations regardless of how long they have been on Grounds—documenting the lives of students across centuries, which in turn gives prospective students something to aspire to and something to look forward to being a part of when they join our prestigious community. Unfortunately, only approximately 10% of our student organizations have any archival documentation in the UVA Archives in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. I was curious—why haven’t student organizations archived their records? As part of the UVA Bicentennial-funded Archiving Student Life for the Third Century project, my coworker Jacob Shaw and I began working on outreach to document student life to help expand our collection of records from student organizations, and assess gaps in UVA Archives’ holdings. We soon began to see patterns.

Flyer (1969), Activist Student Organizations records (RG 23/103/1.111). Image by Bethany Anderson.

Why are there so few records from student organizations? One reason could be due to the levels of representation of CIOs and other student groups across Grounds. When I analyzed the data about the UVA Archives’ holdings, I found some interesting patterns in terms of underrepresentation among those student organizations that don’t have records in Special Collections. These groups include minority ethnicity-based CIOs (e.g., the Latinx community, the Asian community, and the African American community), gender-based groups (specifically those that concern women at UVA), and fine arts organizations (e.g., a cappella groups and dance teams), among others. While I cannot entirely say why these groups are underrepresented, I can say that they deserve far more recognition, to say the least.

One reason could be that idea of the word “archive” is misconstrued most of the time. The word “archiving” sounds ancient, obsolete, and inefficient, when it is far from it. In fact, archiving is more relevant than ever, in a world where digital media presents opportunities for one to record their work in social world and, at the same time, to erase their presence whenever one likes. Archiving doesn’t just matter for manuscripts, administrative files, and other physical paper documents; it also matters for digital content and media— that is, DVDs/CDs, social media accounts, websites, online documents, group chats, and audiovisual files. Special Collections staff can help you preserve your digital content as well as your social media content.

So why is it useful, or rather, important, to archive your organization’s records? Well, as I mentioned above, it sets a precedent for future incoming students; students will have something to look up to when they join the CIO or student group of their choice and will be able to have the history of student organizations from multiple perspectives. Furthermore, documenting the aforementioned underrepresented organizations helps represent a far more diverse student body. Archives provide context for how student organizations were run, and how the structure was modified to suit each incoming generation of students. So, without a shadow of a doubt, I highly recommend archiving your organization’s records—in the spirit of our Bicentennial, it helps us imagine what student life could be like for the third century of UVA students.

In the spirit of learning how to archive student organization records, please attend our workshop on April 24th, 5:30 – 6:30pm, where I will be elaborating upon these discrepancies. Jacob and I will be discussing the importance of archiving, and you can learn about donating and preserving your records. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to hear from students and resident staff from the Albert and Shirley Small Collections Library about how they help preserve the unique history of UVA. Information about this workshop can be found here:

Introducing the Archiving Student Life for the Third Century Project and Workshop

This week we are pleased to welcome a guest post by Jacob Shaw, who is a third year majoring in Economics and Sociology.

I am one of the two archives project assistants for the Archiving Student Life for the Third Century project at the UVA Archives in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Funded by UVA Bicentennial, the goal of the project is twofold—to document student life both through making past records of student life visible and accessible, and to expand the collection of records from student groups on Grounds today. In regards to the first goal, we have been working on processing new donations, such as records documenting Greek life and organizations like the Jefferson Society, along with reprocessing and rearranging important record groups and collections. To help expand our holdings of contemporary student groups, my coworker Aasritha Natarajan and I have been reaching out to a variety of student groups via email to inform them about the Archives’ initiative, and to see if they are interested in donating their records. To further engage student groups in the archiving process, we will be hosting a workshop in the Rotunda multipurpose room on April 24th, 5:30-6:30 pm, to talk to students about the project, what we do at the UVA Archives, and how they can preserve their records and donate them to the Archives.

Radical Student Union publication, Southern Student Organizing Committee Records, (MSS 11192, Box 13). Image by Bethany Anderson.

While my coworker and I have both worked on the archiving and outreach ends of this project, I have spent most of my time working with documents and records, both processing and reprocessing. The main group of records I have been working with are the Southern Student Organizing Committee records, a large group of documents that has been compiled by several donors.

The Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) records tell a very important and interesting story regarding the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War Era, and issues of domestic economic and social policy all through the lens of student activism, particularly at the University of Virginia. The SSOC was an inter-collegiate organization of students at predominantly white universities in the South whose initial aim was to promote progressive social policy regarding racial equality at their universities. While the group remained true to their aims of racial equality in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, they expanded their activism to anti-Vietnam War efforts, by providing legal information to conscientious objectors of the draft and critiquing a variety of American institutions. Also, the group devoted significant energy to supporting labor movements and pushing back against corporate interests. Looking through the documents, it becomes clear that the SSOC was embedded in an important network of student groups, such as the Students for a Democratic Society and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and their different campus chapters, and taking parts in composite organizations such as the Radical Student Union at the University of Virginia.

Bylaws of the Southern Student Organizing Committee, Southern Student Organizing Committee records (MSS 11192, Box 12). Image by Bethany Anderson.

The importance of the UVA Archives becomes clear when one realizes that the SSOC almost sank into oblivion, at least in terms of their records. According to Gregg L Michel, a UVA graduate student who wrote about student organizing, many of their records were intentionally destroyed after the dissolution of the SSOC. While writing his dissertation on the SSOC he reached out to two UVA alumni who both served as the chairs of the organization (Tom Gardner and Steve Wise), leading to the donation of their records, along with records from other members they knew. The records donated by Gardner and Wise really bring the story of the SSOC to UVA, as these two figures, particularly Gardner, saw the SSOC through the bulk of their Civil Rights and Vietnam activism, along with a variety of projects that incorporated UVA groups beyond just the SSOC, such as the “Virginia Summer Project” and the Radical Student Union.

The writings of Gardner highlight the local aspects of student activism, with essays and memos discussing issues around grounds and critiquing UVA as an institution.

At our upcoming workshop, I will be talking more about the Southern Student Organizing Committee, and leading the participants through an activity using an example of a document from their records. The goal of the activity will be to think about our current university climate through the lens of the SSOC’s documents, thinking about the state of student activism on grounds today, and understanding the role and importance of the Archives in preserving student life.

Participants will also learn about how to preserve and donate their own records and hear from several students and staff from the UVA Library and Special Collections about their projects that relate to preserving history, identity, and student activity!

Thank you for reading and please consider coming to the Rotunda on April 24th at 5:30 pm. You can register and find more information about the workshop here: