The statue of William & Mary alumnus Thomas Jefferson was given to the university by the University of Virginia to celebrate the connection between the two institutions and to settle an old debt. Jefferson attended William & Mary from 1760 to 1762 and was a member of the board of visitors. In 1819, he helped to establish the University of Virginia. Before he died, Jefferson took out a $17,000 loan from William & Mary to settle his debts but was unable to pay it back before he died, a factor in the university going bankrupt in 1880 and forced to shut its doors. University of Virginia President John T. Casteen, III hoped the debt would be forgiven with the donation of the statue.

The statue was dedicated in 1992 as part of William and Mary's Tercentenary celebration and was placed between Washington and Tercentenary Hall (later renamed McGlothlin-Street Hall). The statue was created by Lloyd Lillie, a professor at Boston University.

William & Mary’s Jefferson statue is frequently dressed up for holidays and special events as is the statue of Lord Botetourt.

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