The University of Virginia’s ultra-secret Seven Society recently announced gifts totaling $115,554 to U.Va.’s Counseling and Psychological Services and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center to “more broadly encourage the kind of action and attention necessary to realize the empathy and understanding that must lie at the heart of this place.”

The gifts came after the society raised banners around Grounds on Dec. 1 and offered a grant to support cultural change in the wake of a tumultuous fall semester that included the slaying of second-year student Hannah Graham, the deaths of two other students and a since-discredited Rolling Stone story alleging a gang rape at a U.Va. fraternity. The society solicited nominations for worthy beneficiaries for its gift of $57,777, which later was matched by an anonymous donor.

On March 30, the society emailed U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan, Executive Vice President and Provost John D. Simon and Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia M. Lampkin announcing that it would give $77,777 to Counseling and Psychological Services and $37,777 to the Women’s Center.

Seven Society Symbols

Seven Society Symbols

The Seven Society, one of the University’s oldest secret societies, is best known for its behind-the-scenes good works and financial gifts to University initiatives – usually in amounts that include multiple digits of 7.

The Women’s Center’s gift came after the Center sent a proposal to the society.

From the Seven Society’s letter on March 30, announcing the award:

“At the end of the fall semester, the Seven Society pledged to make a donation toward engendering meaningful social change on Grounds in response to the most trying period of University life in recent memory. In accordance with our belief that it is individuals who must lead change in our community, we evaluated the suggestions that we received as to how we might allocate our donation with the primary aim of empowering students in mind.

We believe that your proposed efforts, especially those focused on cultivating student leadership on issues relating to gender and sex, are important steps toward that end. In support of your work, the Seven Society gives $37,777 to the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center. In addition to your grant proposal, several students and alumni wrote to us expressing their appreciation of the role that the Women’s Center fulfills within the University Community. Above all, we thank you for the thought, time, and resources that the faculty and staff of the Women’s Center contribute to making the University a place that is understanding and caring for all.”

Women’s Center Director Sharon Davie said she awoke to find the letter from the Seven Society tacked to the door of her rural Albemarle County home.

“When I opened up the letter, I felt deeply appreciative and grateful to the Seven Society for recognizing the work of the Women’s Center and of all the students and staff and faculty and many allies and partners, who have been working for social justice and positive change for the University for so long,” Davie said. “It was especially moving to me to read in the letter about the many students and alumni who had contacted the Seven Society to tell them how much the Women’s Center meant to them, not only personally, but in terms of the impact on the University.”

The Center recently received funding from the Provost’s Office to hire a coordinator for outreach and education for its Gender Violence and Social Change program. But until March 30, there was no money designated for programming.

“We are honored to have received word that the Seven Society has granted $37,777 to our Gender Violence and Social Change program ,” said Leigh Ann Carver, Communications and Development Officer at the Women’s Center. “As the new education and outreach coordinator begins working with GVSC Director Claire Kaplan in this program, these funds were sought to sustain and grow the impactful programs they offer and we are thrilled to have this well-timed support.”

Rashona Sharpless will begin working as the new coordinator at the Women’s Center in mid-April.

In reaction to this gift, Davie is not only moved by the students and alumni, but also feels that the Women’s Center’s work has been recognized for enriching the University. According to Davie, the gift from the Seven Society is specifically aimed at funding all the different kinds of outreach programs that involve men and women in the prevention of sexual and interpersonal violence.

“The Seven Society gift is designated for funding for things like the operations for the Men’s Leadership Project, Survivor Support Network materials, Men Can Stop Rape trainings and other new programs that will be rolled out in the fall.”

Read more about the Seven Society’s gift in the Cavalier Daily.

MLP Big Brother applications are due by April 10

The Men’s Leadership Project pairs college-student male mentors with local middle-school male youth. To find out more about MLP and to download the application, please click on this link.


Story by Agnes Filipowski and Dan Heuchert of UVA Today.