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Thomas Jefferson Award

The Thomas Jefferson Award is given each year to a member of the William & Mary family for significant service through his or her personal activities, influence and leadership.

Award Recipients
Recent recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Award
2023 - Ronald Sims, Raymond A. Mason School of Business
Award citation

Ronald R. Sims, Floyd Dewey Gottwald Sr. Professor of Business Administration, your professional life is distinguished by an unwavering commitment to service. Your academic career at William & Mary spans nearly 37 years. For 25 years, you served our nation through military duty. Through your professional activities, influence and leadership, you have helped others develop and perform to reach their highest potential.

Colleagues at the business school and throughout the university recognize you as an active leader and change agent. Over the course of nearly four decades, you have led efforts to transform how the university and its individual units understand and recognize the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Long before these topics were widely discussed, you have spoken uncomfortable truths, knowing that plain speaking about difficult truths is necessary to advance equity. Arriving at the university in 1986, you helped found William & Mary’s Black Faculty and Staff Forum. You served as the Forum’s first president in 1987, and you continued as an executive board member through 1993.

Your service contributions at William & Mary are expansive. You have driven efforts to ensure equity in compensation practices and served on the Lead Design Team for the university’s compensation and classification system. A key collaborator for the W&M Leadership Institute and its Supervisors Institute, you helped design and deliver a program that maximizes learning for staff. You have taken on numerous committee leadership roles to ensure minority and women representation in hiring and recruitment. You brought these decades of experience to bear in your contributions to the business school’s current diversity task force and initiatives. Colleagues write poignantly and emphatically about your commitment to serving those around you. As one writes, “In the most persistent image I have of him, he is seated in his office lit by a single desk lamp speaking with a student, a faculty member, or a staff person about what they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish. This ‘invisible’ work has supported and shaped the development of countless members of the William & Mary community.” Another colleague puts its succinctly: “We have all profited from his dedication.”

Ronald R. Sims, you have made an indelible stamp on William & Mary’s faculty, students and staff and on the institution to which we all belong. We are pleased to honor you with the 2023 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2022 - Paul Marcus, William & Mary Law School
Award citation

Paul Marcus, the R. Hugh and Nolie Haynes Professor of Law, has spent three decades at William & Mary and more than 45 years as a law professor and academic leader. He has been a law school dean and the president of the Association of American Law Schools. His scholarly excellence has led to his appointment to countless advisory roles in all branches of government. Long known as one of our best teachers, colleagues describe him as a maestro in the classroom and students call him the guiding force in their professional lives. He has made all of those around him better, from the dozens of faculty members across the country he has mentored to the inmates in the local jail who have benefited from the sessions on law and literature he has co-taught with our students. In 2010, the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized Marcus with the Outstanding Faculty Award.

2021 - Virginia L. McLaughlin '71, School of Education
Award citation

Virginia L. McLaughlin, your service and influence upon the field of education, the university and the community have few parallels. Your 38-year career at William & Mary has been distinguished by authentic and transformative leadership, generous mentorship and selfless service.

As the first woman dean of the William & Mary School of Education, you spearheaded the construction of a beautiful and enduring home for our students, faculty, staff, programs and projects in education, and you ushered in a new era of prominence and influence for the school.

Generations of students and colleagues have benefited from your patient wisdom and steady encouragement. From your days as a teacher-leader in special education classrooms, to your service as chief of staff to President Emeritus Timothy J. Sullivan ’66, through your 18 years as dean of the School of Education, to now, as a deeply respected teacher and colleague, you have helped shape the careers of countless leaders in the education profession and beyond.

You have been a compelling voice in the field of education, forging collaborative partnerships across the university, state and nation. Your leadership helped unite the work of universities and K-12 schools, establishing William & Mary as a willing partner and trusted voice for practitioners and policymakers throughout the commonwealth. Appointed by then-Governor Timothy Kaine to the State Board of Education in Virginia, you were the first sitting dean of a school of education to serve in this influential role. You have been a passionate advocate for equity and a catalyst for change, expanding diversity within the faculty, championing women in education and advocating for inclusion practices in special education.

Over the course of your long tenure at William & Mary, your service has influenced nearly every corner of the university. From strategic planning, capital campaigns and accreditation to special task forces and standing committees, you have been an integral hand in shaping the character and trajectory of the institution.

Beyond the walls of William & Mary, you have been entrusted with leadership positions within education’s most esteemed organizations and honored with some of the most coveted recognitions awarded by the profession. You have also found time to be a selfless and dedicated contributor in the local community, serving on numerous committees and boards devoted to improving educational and health outcomes for children and families in the greater Williamsburg area.

It is our pleasure on behalf of William & Mary to honor you today with the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2020 - Heather Macdonald, Geology
Award citation

Heather Macdonald, in the classroom, across William & Mary and throughout the discipline of geosciences, you have been a force for generating new perspectives, knowledge and change. Always curious, interested and thinking about ways to improve and grow, your leadership has consistently connected people and inspired new ideas and solutions.

Your decision to pursue the scholarship of science education as a major line of inquiry, and to share this knowledge through published articles and continuing professional workshops and collaborations has resulted in wide application of creative teaching approaches and respect for alternative perspectives and learning styles. Your careful mentoring has changed the lives and career trajectories of countless students, junior faculty and colleagues at every level.

One example of your efforts is your help in creating the university’s undergraduate program in marine science, bringing together the excellence of Arts & Sciences students and the research expertise of our Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the companion Marine Science Teaching Fellows Program, which engages Ph.D. students in the undergraduate classroom. You also helped to found and secure funding for the Robert Noyce Scholars Program in the School of Education, which encourages talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers.

Furthermore, your service contributions to William & Mary have influenced the fabric and structure of our institution in ways that advance our highest aspirations. We note your three-year tenure as dean of undergraduate studies, nine years spent as chair of your department decade as co-director of the marine science minor program, as well as time spent serving as secretary of the faculty assembly, chair of the Faculty Women’s Caucus and your service on governance and advisory committees across the university.

Throughout your career you have received many of the most coveted recognitions awarded by the profession of geoscience education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and your alma maters. It is our great pleasure to honor your exemplary contributions by awarding you the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2019 - Silvia Tandeciarz, Modern Languages & Literatures
Award citation

Silvia Tandeciarz, since joining the faculty in 1999 you have pursued a career that honors Thomas Jefferson’s charge: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” You have established an international reputation as an eminent scholar of Latin American cultural studies, focusing on memory and human rights in Argentina. You have authored four books – including a volume of poetry – and more than a dozen articles, moving nimbly among cultural and literary studies, anthropology, history, visual, cultural, film and photography studies to explore how memories of violence and political repression re-emerge.

Your commitments to human rights and interdisciplinary have profoundly shaped the Hispanic studies program, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the university. In 1999, you led the design of the Hispanic studies major, an issues-driven curriculum grounded in cultural studies. You implemented a set of innovative course offerings taught in Spanish that provide challenging experiences for undergraduates at all levels of the curriculum. Long before the advent of COLL 300, you were developing innovative courses that enable undergraduates to engage in faculty-mentored field research outside the traditional classroom and academic calendar. These include the study-abroad program at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata; the National Security Archives in Washington, D.C.; the first faculty-led spring-break trip to the Arizona-Mexico border; and a program to South Africa – all projects related to your work in human rights and justice. You then worked with other Arts & Sciences faculty to extend these innovations into the institutional fabric of William & Mary, incorporating them into the new COLL curriculum. Many students have attested to the powerful difference your teaching has made in their lives.

You have established this remarkable record of achievement in scholarship and teaching while making vital service contributions, serving as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures three times, and in a number of other roles campus-wide. Your colleagues cite the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness and consideration that you bring to this service.

It is our great pleasure to honor your exemplary contributions by awarding you the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Award.

View more recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Award.