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American University Receives Gift of Airlie Center in Warrenton Virginia

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Airlie House at Airlie Center
A photo of Airlie House at Airlie Center in Warrenton, VA.

American University is delighted to announce the generous gift of the Airlie Center by the Airlie Board of Directors. Airlie, located in Warrenton, Virginia, is a magnificent property that includes the historic Airlie House and village of guest rooms and meeting facilities set on more than 300 acres of verdant Virginia landscape featuring pastoral, lake, and wildlife views.

For over half a century, Airlie has been welcoming global leaders, heads of state, and diplomats who have convened at the storied Virginia estate, an hour from Washington DC, for conferences and programs dedicated to social progress, education, environmental research, and public health. Airlie succeeded in becoming a world-renowned meeting and conference destination, a place LIFE magazine heralded as "an island of thought."

Airlie was one of the first conference facilities of its kind in the country, a center where individuals and organizations could meet in a distraction¬ free and neutral environment to candidly exchange ideas on issues, ignite thought and inspire collective action around shared interests, purpose and values. Early conversations among participants in the Civil Rights Movement established Airlie as a supportive venue for dialogue.

The first ever class of White House Fellows outside the White House. The Fellows met at Airlie, now given to American University.

The first class of White House Fellows, pictured here at the White House, first met at Airlie to learn they had been selected for the fellows program. Several Eagles have served as fellows since then. Photo:

"The University is honored to have been selected for this wonderful gift. It is our intent to carry on the very impressive and important legacy of Airlie, while leveraging this marvelous facility for American University’s academic initiatives," said Neil Kerwin, president of American University.

“We are delighted that the pioneering vision of Airlie’s founder, Dr. Murdock Head, will live on under American University’s stewardship. “AU’s commitment to Airlie’s founding ideals of the open exchange of ideas that can effect positive change and to responsible land stewardship through conservation and sustainable practices, will ensure a bright and exciting future for this historic place,” said Suzanne Hayden, president of the of Airlie Board of Directors.

A woman working in the organic garden at Airlie.

Airlie's Organic Garden.

From the Center’s inception, Airlie has focused on advancing positive social change and environmental leadership as core priorities. Airlie was the venue for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s first annual conference in 1962; the place where, in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson made public his concept of Earth Day; the site of significant gatherings aimed at peace in both Northern Ireland and the former Republic of Yugoslavia, and the home of ground-breaking ultralight-led migration studies with Trumpeter swans and Canada geese that resulted in restoration programs for endangered whooping cranes and other species.