Sara Bon-Harper has been appointed as the executive director of Ash Lawn-Highland, the William & Mary-owned historic home in Charlottesville, Va., that once belonged to President James Monroe.
Bon-Harper currently works as the archaeological research manager for Monticello, the historic home of President Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville. She is moving into the position at Ash Lawn-Highland following the departure of Carolyn Holmes, who retired this summer after 37 years of service at the property. Bon-Harper will begin on Sept. 15.
“Coming from a research position at Monticello, I am very pleased to be offered the opportunity to engage with another of Virginia’s historic presidential homes,” said Bon-Harper. “James Monroe made great contributions to American history in terms of democracy and nation-building. These themes are as relevant in today's world as they were 200 years ago. I am looking forward to an exciting time of growth and program development at Ash Lawn-Highland.”
Bon-Harper earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona and her doctorate from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. She has extensive research experience and has worked at numerous archaeological sites, including Pompeii, Italy, and multiple locations in France. She is also an experienced educator who has taught at UNC, the University of Virginia and the University of Bradford in England.
She has published numerous reports and papers and has earned multiple grants, fellowships and awards including the Manning Award for an outstanding dissertation in anthropology.
“We are delighted to welcome Sara as the executive director of Ash-Lawn Highland. We look forward to the great work she’ll do in preserving President James Monroe’s home and legacy and building strong relationships with our surrounding historic treasures,” said Jim Murray, chair of The Monroe Commission. The committee was established last year and managed the search for the new executive director.
At Ash Lawn-Highland, Bon-Harper will be responsible for overseeing the property’s historic home museum, its collection of art and furnishings, its 535-acre working farm and its many educational programs. The location attracts about 60,000 visitors annually and has become a popular event location, hosting wine festivals, symposia, weddings and historical reenactments.
Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, attended William & Mary from 1774 through 1776.