Lady Columbia, an American symbol personifying liberty, peace, justice, and victory. (Old Paper Studios / Alamy)
Press Release

Bert Ellis, Champion of Academic Freedom, Named Recipient of Common Sense Courage Award

August 4, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C.Common Sense Society (CSS), a leading international educational network, presents the Common Sense Courage Award to individuals who champion the principles of liberty, prosperity, and beauty, and whose actions demonstrate resolve while facing opposition.

This year, we are pleased to present the Common Sense Courage Award to Mr. Bert Ellis who has served as a founding investor, board member, or senior advisor on numerous and diverse ventures including but not limited to Ellis Capital, WebMD, Vivex Biologics, Johnson Energy Storage, and over forty-six television stations across the United States. He is even the managing partner of a diner in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We recognize his work as a member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors since his appointment by Governor Youngkin and co-founder and president emeritus of the Jefferson Council, an organization that seeks to promote academic freedom, debate, and integrity.

Bert has worked tirelessly to promote intellectual diversity in the face of a radical and intolerant “DEI” agenda, to protect the UVA Lawn, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, against defacement, and to promote the UVA Honor System, which champions integrity and honesty in students.

In response to these efforts, mainstream media outlets initiated an unjustified smear campaign, including hit pieces from The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Virginia Public Media. Students joined in, criticizing and antagonizing the very one defending their freedom of expression.

“Bert has shown inspiring resolve against the anti-intellectual forces that are assaulting free speech and freedom of academic inquiry,” said CSS president and C.E.O. Marion Smith. “He has pushed UVA to focus on teaching instead of indoctrinating, defended its beautiful and historic UVA Lawn, and stood resolute in the face of an unjustified smear campaign. We are happy to present Bert with the Common Sense Courage Award.”

“Integrity and rigorous debate are worth fighting for—they are vital elements in the effort to safeguard our liberties and raise a generation of leaders worth following,” said Bert Ellis. “I accept this award with great pride and determination to continue the fight alongside my friends at Common Sense Society.”

Past recipients of the award include Rosa María Payá, one of the most recognized democracy and human rights activists and the founder of citizen initiative Cuba Decide which promotes democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

Common Sense Society (CSS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes liberty, prosperity, and beauty through education and civic engagement programs. The fellowships, curriculum resources, publications, cultural programs, and national campaigns of CSS illuminate the enduring ideas that have transformed the course of human history for the better. CSS does not accept funding from governments or political parties.


For more information, contact Emily Soper at

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