Master plan: Anderson quits UVA before he gets old

The plywood walls of construction sites have sprouted widely across University terrain of late, and in 10 years graduates will return to find their hallowed grounds a place transformed.

The new facilities are too numerous to list, but they'll have one thing in common: a shared architectural ideology and a sense of connectivity that, at various times throughout the University's development has been all but lost.

And if you want someone to express your gratitude to, thank Samuel A. "Pete" Anderson, retiring Architect for the University.

Anderson steps down on May 16 after eight years as master planner and custodian of Jefferson's vision for his academical village.

"I'll be 70 this year, and it's time," he says. "My father died over 30 years ago, and I still think of him a lot. He retired at 68, and he was an old man then. Of course, I don't think I'm an old man at all."

The Hook caught up with Anderson the day after a festive retirement dinner at the University's Colonnade Club. "My two-year-old granddaughter was the hit of the party, running around barefoot," he says. "It was great."

Anderson received his undergraduate degree in history from UVA in 1955 and intended to go to law school. That plan changed after a conversation with his wife's godfather.

"He was working for a Wall Street firm, and the more he described it, the more I didn't want to do it," Anderson says. He chose architecture instead, and after years of private practice, UVA selected him to become the first full-time Architect for the University.

"When I arrived here eight years ago," recalls Anderson, "I wanted to arrive at the point where someone could give me the coordinates of any spot in the University, and I could tell them two hundred years of history, what was there now, and what was going to be there.

"I wanted to boil down the essence of the academical village, bottle it, and export it to the rest of the University. There's an ineffable something about the softness of the buildings, how they touch the landscape, and the unique discourse between students and faculty that they facilitate," he says.

UVA has grown from an original student population of 125 to a whopping 19,000, and according to Anderson, that growth resulted in disjointedness, with peripheral housing and professional schools essentially "moated off" from the rest of the school.

"I think I've done something about that," he says. "The University is more of a singular place now. It's gone from being an academical village to a town, a community."

On returning stateside after a post-retirement trip to France, Anderson and his wife plan to move back to Connecticut and their home in the Berkshires.

"I want to build a shed and a woodworking shop there," he says. "I want to build a boat to supplement my canoes. I want to paint, I want to build stone walls. I want to travel, read, sail, fish, do landscaping, go walking.

"I've got twenty years worth of plans."

Age: 69

What brought you here? A great job offer

What's worst about living here? Summers

Favorite hangout? The Downtown Mall– the bar at the Downtown Grille has the best martinis.

Most overrated virtue? You can't overrate virtue.

What would people be surprised to know about you? That I will be attending race car driving school this summer as a retirement present from my wife

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would become a great conversationalist.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? The sum total of what I've accomplished at the University, both in terms of long-term planning and in human relations

What do people find most annoying about you? My uncanny ability to understand both sides of any issue

Whom do you admire? It's hard to admire anyone in the spring of 2003.

Favorite book? John Cheever's Wapshot Chronicle

 Currently reading? Chris Tilghman's Mason's Retreat

What subject causes you to rant? The forces currently occupying the White House

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? That I'm still alive and well

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The forces currently occupying the White House

What do you drive? My fourth Saab in a row– this one's a convertible.

What's in your car CD player right now? Aldo Ciccolini's classic Eric Satie compendium

What's your next journey? To a chateau on the Dordogne for two weeks

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? When I was 12 or 13, when my sister and I were discovered sharing spicy pages of Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre with the 12-year-old daughters of visiting friends of my parents

What do you regret? That my father died before I had gotten old enough for us to have spent significant time together as equals

Favorite comfort food? Jinx's pit-cooked pulled pork barbecue (not BBQ)

What's always in your refrigerator? Champagne– you never know who might stop by.

Must-see TV? A Braves game

Favorite cartoon? I read Dilbert and Blondie every morning– also Ann Landers.

Describe a perfect day. It's 78 degrees, there's a 12-15 knot breeze, I'm at the helm of a 35-foot yawl with my wife and a couple of old friends, close reaching along the coast of Maine. We'll anchor out in a deserted cove with an hour or two for a quick swim, then dinner and the night.

Walter Mitty fantasy? That I am a world-class fly fisherman.

Who'd play you in the movie? Jimmy Stewart

Most embarrassing moment? Caught reading tattered pages of God's Little Acre outloud to under-aged playmates

Best advice you ever got? Whatever else, you must not betray your innermost principles.

Favorite bumper sticker? One I've never actually seen. Do you remember the time when it seemed that every automobile on the road had a yellow diamond-shaped sign hanging in the rear window saying something like "Baby on Board"? I was always hoping I'd see one that said simply, "Bored."