John L. Nau III — a University alumnus of the College’s Class of 1968 and former member of the Board of Visitors — has donated $27.5 million in support of the College’s recently established Democracy Initiative, the University announced Wednesday.
Nau also directed $2 million of the donation as an unrestricted gift to the College, in response to the pandemic creating an urgent need for resources. University matching programs — like the Bicentennial Professors Fund, which matches funds of gifts that support endowed professorships — contributed an additional $17 million, which brought the investment’s total value to over $44 million.
Much of the gift will go toward the Democracy Initiative’s Core Lab, which serves as the central point through which individual, specialized democracy labs collaborate. The donation establishes 10 endowed faculty positions, along with up to four visiting faculty positions and additional research and program funding.
The Democracy Initiative was launched in 2018 to promote research and curriculum exploring issues related to democracy around the world — such as race, religion, immigration, women’s rights, the economy and the media. University faculty and students focusing on specific issues related to democracy in various interdisciplinary labs.
“The Nau Professorships the endowment sponsors will help us draw the leadership we need to support mission-critical elements of our work.” said Melody Barnes, the initiative’s co-director of public policy and affairs, in the Wednesday announcement. “The generosity of the Nau Foundation ensures our ability to shape scholarship and the student experience for years to come, and to engage government leaders, practitioners and the public to advance democratic principles and culture.”
The recent gift is the largest lifetime pledge ever directed to the College, according to the announcement. The Nau Foundation has also committed $16.6 million toward establishing the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History and $11 million for the construction of Nau Hall.
Regarding his most recent donation, Nau told U.Va. Today, “educating current and future generations of students about the historical, political and philosophical foundations of democracy — and especially the American democracy — is absolutely essential, and I sincerely hope others will join me and the Nau Foundation in supporting these efforts.”