Alumni Association

The first alumni association of the University was organized in 1838. Unfortunately the earliest minutes disappeared when General Philip Sheridan's troops came through Charlottesville in March of 1865. After the Civil War the organization was reconstituted and new chapters organized throughout the country. By 1893 there were twenty-six local branches from New York to San Francisco. On April 23, 1870, nine University alumni residing in New York gathered to organize "an Alumni Association for social intercourse and friendly cooperation." Minutes of their earliest meetings were kept by John R. Thompson, editor of the New York Evening Post, former editor of The Southern Literary Messenger and the Southern Illustrated News, spokesman for the Confederacy in England and author of many well-known "Confederate poems."

In May of 1894, Colonel Thomas H. Ellis, one of the oldest living alumni of the University and the first secretary of the first Society of Alumni, addressed a meeting of the District of Columbia Alumni Association, recalling his childhood in Richmond, his youth at the University, and subsequent career as a diplomat and railroad and bank president. Ellis recalled being taught to swim by family friend Edgar Allan Poe; witnessing a fist fight between U. S. Senator and Board of Visitors member William Cabell Rives and Virginia Delegate and future governor Thomas Walker Gilmer; chicken dinners at 10 p.m. supplied by "Lewis the Bell Ringer"; the founding of the Society of Alumni; and the good times at Cocke's tavern on the stage road to Brown's Gap.