The Society of the Purple Shadows

Pavilion III at Dusk
"it is those who lead honorable lives who ultimately drive change"
The Society of the Purple Shadows

Editor's Note: The following letter and accompanying poem were received by the Chair of the Honor Committee for inclusion in the Bicentennial Report. The Society of the Purple Shadows has long recognized the contributions of University students, faculty, and staff; provided copies of "The Honor Men" poem at the Honor convocation; and encouraged student voting - particularly on issues of Honor System sanctioning.

THE SOCIETY OF THE PURPLE SHADOWS was founded to protect the University’s beneficial traditions, specifically our community’s commitment to the core tenets of self-governance and the illimitable freedom of the human mind. THE SOCIETY operates in support of the University’s mission to protect democracy by educating people of all backgrounds and empowering them to become informed, engaged, and ethical citizens. in safeguarding University traditions, THE SOCIETY’S goal is not to freeze the University in time. rather, it is to quietly support the University as it strives to live up to Mr. Jefferson’s founding vision, particularly in times when it fails to do so.

the honor system is a critical part of the fabric of our community and its approach to the education of ethical citizens. its purpose goes beyond that of teaching students not to lie, cheat, and steal. rather, it exists as a social contract that THE SOCIETY believes encourages citizenship and stewardship within the community. THE SOCIETY OF THE PURPLE SHADOWS strongly supports the honor system for it is an integral part of inspiring ethical and engaged citizens who will contribute to the greater good of the commonwealth, nation, and world.

since its inception, honor has been a core tenet of the University. in recent years, the virtue of honor has evolved to exist solely as a disciplinary construct rather than a life philosophy which shepherds our University and its members. as such, THE SOCIETY has continually supported the single sanction as it has proven to instill the virtues of honor as a way of life, embodied commitment to the common good, rather than as a disciplinary measure.

THE SOCIETY endeavors to commend and empower those whose actions uphold the core values of honor and student self-governance. unequivocally, THE SOCIETY believes that the vision of the student body will guide the University toward the complexity and moral fortitude of a truly global citizen. honesty, vulnerability, and accountability remain at the heart of the honor system, and in its silent service, THE SOCIETY preserves these ideals to guide our community to a space of love and justice.

colgate w. darden jr. once said that “much of what is finest about the University of Virginia is found in its traditions. acquaint yourself with them. you will find them of great value. however, do not permit yourself to become a captive of the past. tradition is of worth only so long as it tends to preserve that which is valuable and useful in the life of a community.” THE SOCIETY, since its inception, has celebrated the ideals and traditions of Mr. Jefferson’s University while also understanding the inherent complications that changing times may bring. as the passing of time inevitably brings complexity, it is those who lead honorable lives who ultimately drive change. THE SOCIETY trusts that the honor system will continue to adapt and grow in order to eliminate biases, reaffirm the importance of single sanction, and instill honor as an intangible, unifying force for members of our community.



the honor men

the University of Virginia writes her highest degree on the souls of her sons.

the parchment page of scholarship—the colored ribbon of a society—the jeweled emblem of a fraternity—the orange symbol of athletic prowess—all these, a year hence, will be at the best the mementos of happy hours—like the withered flower a woman presses between the pages of a book for sentiment’s sake.

but…if you live a long, long time, and hold honesty of conscience

above honesty of purse;

and turn aside without ostentation to aid the weak;

and treasure ideals more than raw ambition;

and track no man to his undeserved hurt;

and pursue no woman to her tears;

and love the beauty of noble music and mist-veiled mountains

and blossoming valley and great monuments-

if you live a long time and, keeping the faith in all these things

hours by hour, still see that the sun gilds your path with real

gold and that the moon floats in dream silver;


then...remembering the purple shadows of the lawn, the majesty of

the colonnades, and the dream of your youth, you may say

in your reverence and thankfulness:

“i have worn the honors of Honors.

i graduated from Virginia.”


by james hay jr.

editor in chief

corks & curls, 1903