Andrew Freear (Photo credit: Timothy Hursley)

For more than two decades, Andrew Freear has lived in rural Newbern, Alabama, a town with a population of 187, where he runs a program that questions the conventional education and role of architects. His students have designed and built more than 220 community buildings, homes, and parks in their under-resourced community. He is a teacher, designer, builder, advocate, and liaison between local authorities, community partners, and students.

Freear’s work has been published extensively, and he regularly lectures around the world. He has designed and built exhibits at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, the Whitney Biennial, and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, as well as the Milan Triennale and the Venice Biennale.

His honors include the Ralph Erskine Award, the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, and the Architecture Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Freear was a 2018 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University and in 2020 received the President’s Medal from the Architectural League of New York, the League’s highest honor. In 2021, he was inducted as a National Academician into the National Academy of Design and this Fall 2022, Rural Studio received the National Design Award in Architecture / Interior Design from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

On the anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13 (known locally as Founder’s Day), the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello join together to present the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals to recognize achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president, excelled and held in high regard. These medals are the highest external honors bestowed by the University of Virginia, which grants no honorary degrees. For information on Founder’s Day, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals and the 2023 recipients, click here.