Z Society is a philanthropic organization that was founded at
the University of
Virginia in 1892.
North Steps of the Rotunda, with Z
It comprises outstanding student
leaders who give time, talent, and financial contributions to
groups and individuals that exemplify the spirit of the society and
uphold the ideals of the university. Additionally, the Z Society
encourages and recognizes excellence through a number of honorary
dinners and academic awards.
The organization's membership chooses to remain anonymous
because of the belief that service, when
provided anonymously, provides a unique philanthropic opportunity.
After graduation, members may opt to wear Z Society rings.
Selection for membership is considered a high honor at the
The Z Society contributes significantly to the University through
monetary donations, recognition events, such as a
First-YearRecognition Dinner, service opportunities, encouragement
letters, and major awards such as the Edgar Shannon Award,
presented to one student from each school during graduation, as
well as the Distinguished Faculty Award, presented to one faculty
member from the University every year.
Like the Seven Society
and IMP Society
, the Z Society is known to paint
their symbol around grounds. Superstition holds that if a woman
walks directly over the Z on the steps of the footbridge near
Ruffner Hall, she will become pregnant before she graduates.
The Z Society was founded in 1892 in the wake of a series of
disputes between the Eli Banana
and the faculty and Board of Visitors of the University. According
to University historian Philip
, the society was formed to "skim the cream"
from the Elis and T.I.L.K.A.; by his estimation, some 90% of the
membership of the Z (or "Zetas," as he refers to them) were "in
society," that is, of social distinction.
The Z Society sign in black on the
steps to Old Cabell Hall
The early Z Society, along with Eli Banana and T.I.L.K.A., was a
"ribbon society," one whose members were denoted by a cloth ribbon
worn on the lapel.. In 1906, it was described as the "most secret
ribbon organization,"though by 1969 it was described as
Over time, the Z Society began a tradition of philanthropy around
the school for which they are remembered today. Past gifts to the
university include an annual fund for the purchase of books at
Alderman Library, established in the honor of University professor,
dean, and Z Society member Robert Kent
at his retirement in 1964; a scholarship in honor of
University president Edgar F.
, established in
1973; the Z Society Distinguished Faculty Award, for professors who
contributed to the community beyond their academic
responsibilities, established in 1972; and the Z Society Award for
Organizations, dating from 1971 or before.
In recent years, the Z Society has been outspoken in support of
diversity in the University community, symbolically painting its
white Z symbols black in response to an alleged 2003 hate crime;
and writing letters of support to organizations that support Jewish
student life at the University and in Charlottesville.
Notable members of the Z Society include Gilbert J. Sullivan
, director of the UVA Alumni
Association, and George M.
Cochran, Virginia House of Delegates and
Senate of Virginia; Supreme Court of
- Bruce IV: 100. Note: Bruce is alone among early historians of
the University in calling the Z Society the "Zeta."
- Bruce V:277-279
- Dabney, 579-580.
- Dabney, 594.
- Dabney, 465-466