Larry's largesse: Should we call him $abato?

It seems that even a talking head can have a heart. Superstar UVA politics professor and ubiquitous media "expert consultant," Larry Sabato delivered news of his own in the crowded Rotunda Dome Room on Friday, February 4.

"It's time to repay my beloved University," says Sabato, announcing his $1 million donation to UVA.

The gift represents the fulfillment of a promise Sabato, now 52, made during the final years of his undergraduate study. He says he made the promise some 30 years ago during a casual encounter with his mentor, University president Edgar Shannon.

"He just laughed," Sabato says, "because at the time I was making $14,000 a year."

The donation is connected to Sabato's expanding Center for Politics– as well as UVA's recent strides toward financial independence under the so-called "Charter University" initiative being debated in the General Assembly. "The golden age of state funding is over, and it's not coming back, no matter what we'd prefer," Sabato says.

UVA President John Casteen hopes that Sabato's gift will prove to be an auspicious beginning for his soon-to-be-launched $3 billion capital campaign, and will inspire other well-heeled graduates to give the University a little kickback.

"If a teacher can save and donate a large gift, thousands of other University alumni can do the same," says Sabato. "It's time for new people to step up to the plate– new people like me.

"The capital campaign is one of the two largest-running fund raising drives for any university in the country," he adds.

Luckily for Casteen, Sabato is running with the big dogs. The donation– the largest ever by an active UVA faculty member– is estimated to be one of the largest ever given by an active professor at any institution.

The money will be used to renovate the Birdwood Pavilion, an Ivy Road mansion built by gentleman farmer William Garth in 1819. UVA acquired the property in 1974. After announcing and then renouncing plans to build a residential complex there, the University surrounded the house with a golf course. Although the structure played host to University receptions through the 1990s, the University considers it decrepit.

But $8-10 million from now, the Pavilion will become a permanent home for Sabato's Center for Politics– with the ground floor reserved for University meetings and receptions. "It will be an extension of the Academical Village," says Center staff member Peter Jackson.

Casteen is undoubtedly somewhat giddy over the donation, and Sabato says he's already finding karmic benefits.

"It puts you on Cloud 14, not just Cloud 9," he says.

But euphoria wasn't an overnight sensation. "I started saving for this in 1974, but I started saving seriously in 1978, because between 1974 and 1978 I had no job," he laughs.

Larry Sabato

Politics prof Larry Sabato and UVA prez John Casteen