CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., January 17, 2023 — Leslie Greene Bowman has announced she will conclude her leadership at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello as of April 30. Under her stewardship, Monticello has welcomed millions of guests, expanded scholarship, modernized across digital and physical platforms and multiplied the donor base sixfold. This work has epitomized Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental belief in progress “increasing our knolege and improving our condition.”
“Leslie’s efforts ensured that Monticello’s 21st century reach is as expansive as Jefferson’s vision,” said Melody Barnes, former chair of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Board of Trustees. “Because of her dedication, Monticello plays an active role in bringing the past forward and contributing to today’s essential contemporary debates about freedom, religious liberty, education, and more.”
Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian, said, “Leslie Bowman’s commitment to ensuring America better understands the historic and contemporary impact of slavery changed the trajectory of not only Monticello but of other historic homes and plantations. Her courageous leadership helped all to see the complexity of Thomas Jefferson and the centrality of slavery in the lives of many of the founders of America. We were all made better by her time at Monticello.”
During Ms. Bowman’s presidency, Monticello greatly expanded the “Getting Word African American Oral History Project,” now connecting nearly 1,000 descendants. Bowman’s vision for the restoration of the upper floors of the house and Mulberry Row means Monticello now offers visitors the most authentic interpretation in the foundation's century of stewardship. This includes dozens of new spaces open for public tours and stories of enslaved families, including an exhibit on Sally Hemings in the room where she once lived.
"I have had the privilege to be a steward of one of the world’s most precious places, both a World Heritage Site for its expression of human creative genius, and an International Site of Conscience for its painful history with slavery,” Bowman said. “In these past fifteen years, with the shared dedication and brilliance of colleagues, trustees, and donors, we have returned Monticello as closely as we could to Jefferson’s vision and creation, and restored lost places, voices and stories. It has been the greatest honor of my career; I will cherish the work and those alongside me who made it possible. I step down with certainty that Monticello’s finest days lie ahead, proud that I could play a small part. Thomas Jefferson said it better than anyone before or since, ‘There is a fulness of time when men should go, & not occupy too long the ground to which others should advance.’”
Under her leadership, Monticello’s unparalleled team of committed professionals have expanded Monticello’s international programs and renovated facilities on Jefferson’s neighboring mountain, Montalto, into The Robert H. Smith Center for events and conferences. These projects increased Monticello’s reach by providing more opportunities for people around the world to learn about and engage with Thomas Jefferson’s legacy as a foundational thinker, author and champion of the ideas upon which America was built.
David M. Rubenstein stated, “Leslie Bowman could not have done more to preserve and advance the legacy of Monticello throughout her tenure as President. She was tireless in leading the restoration of Monticello and made it an exciting historic and educational treat for millions of people from throughout the world.” He continued, “My own involvement with Monticello was due in large part to the vision Leslie Bowman provided to me about Monticello’s potential as a unique and distinctive American treasure. I am indebted to Leslie for helping me show others how patriotic philanthropy can help our country restore and understand our past.”
Monticello’s work would not be possible without our generous donors, who in recent years have helped us add nearly 500 acres to foundation holdings, preserving viewshed and original Jefferson lands. Alongside that expansion, Bowman led Monticello’s dedicated team to restore agriculture to Monticello and gave it a public face with the new Farm Table café. With the recent acquisition of the neighboring and historic Jefferson Vineyards, Monticello is further expanding its commitment to agriculture, agritourism, and Jefferson's seminal role in the American wine industry. And most recently, Ms. Bowman worked with David M. Rubenstein to secure the long term loan of a rare and early engraving of the Declaration of Independence, now on exhibit in the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center.
Gardiner Hallock, who has served as a senior leader at Monticello for over a decade, has been appointed interim President, and the Board of Trustees has begun its search for a new President. Ms. Bowman will be named President Emerita upon her departure.
“Leslie Bowman's nearly 15-year presidency will leave a permanent legacy of vision and integrity as she led Monticello through unparalleled expansions of its physical, digital and academic initiatives,” said Board of Trustees Chair Tobias Dengel. “I would like to also thank the leadership and incredible staff at Monticello for their past and future contributions as we work through this transition.”
As we look toward the celebration of the 250th anniversary of America's independence, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation will continue in our mission to share Monticello with the widest possible audiences.
“Being at Monticello is as close as we can come to being in conversation with Thomas Jefferson, and Leslie Bowman invigorated, elevated, and diversified those conversations through years of consequential leadership,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham. “Creative and tireless, thoughtful and curious, Leslie has become a leading figure in the complicated, ever-shifting, and essential realm of American memory.”
 Thomas Jefferson to William Ludlow, Monticello; 6 September 1824. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-4523
 Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, Monticello; 1 August 1816. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6618