In Memoriam: Thatcher Stone ’82, Aviation Lawyer, Lecturer and Philanthropist
Thatcher A. Stone, a 1982 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a 1978 graduate of the University, died at age 67 on Nov. 29 while traveling in Israel. He leaves a lasting legacy at his alma mater, where he also taught aviation law and made significant development gifts.
For 32 years after graduating from UVA Law, Stone practiced law on Wall Street in the areas of finance, banking and asset-based lending, with an emphasis on secured financing related to intercontinental jet aircraft. He advised the Export-Import Bank of the United States for 25 years on loans for foreign aircraft buyers and, after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, he advised EXIM and the White House on global war risk insurance issues arising from the attacks.
The Thatcher A. Stone Garden was dedicated in 2010 after Stone pledged a generous donation to the Law School in 2009. The Philip M. Stone Dining Room, dedicated in 2002, was named for his father, who died when Thatcher was a child.
The Lillian Stone Distinguished Lecture, which is hosted jointly by the Law School and the School of Architecture, was named for his mother. Lillian Kolodiz Stone, who died in 2013, was the first female chemical engineering graduate of Northeastern University and served as chief of environmental project review at the U.S. Department of the Interior for 25 years.
Stone was born in Massachusetts and grew up primarily in Washington, D.C., before attending boarding school at Northfield Mount Hermon in northern Massachusetts. He has one daughter, Rebecca Stone.
In 2004, Stone made headlines — and new legal precedent — when he successfully sued Continental Airlines after getting bumped from a flight without appropriate compensation.
Later, in the aftermath of another passenger being dragged off a United flight in 2018 because the airline wanted to bump him involuntarily, Stone wrote in a CNN.com op-ed, “Unfortunately, this is a typical game all of the airlines play. They start offering compensation and travel that is less than what is required under the FAA rule hoping that people who haven’t been properly informed about their rights will take the cheap offer. … [T]o fulfill their part of the bargain, airlines need to follow the rules and treat passengers who get bumped fairly.”
In 2013, he relocated his solo practice from New York to Charlottesville. He founded Stone & Woodrow in 2015, adding passenger litigation and personal injury to his corporate and aircraft transaction portfolio.
He retired from the firm in May but remained of counsel, according to his firm bio.
His commitment to Charlottesville and UVA preceded his law firm’s move, however. He began teaching aviation law at the Law School in 2005, served on the Law School’s Alumni Council and at one point chaired the selection committee for Jefferson Law Fellows. He also served on two nonprofit boards in Charlottesville, including UVA’s Fralin Museum of Art.
His closest friend, Frank Kittredge Jr., a 1978 graduate of UVA’s School of Architecture, worked with Stone on two side-business opportunities, including one they turned into a philanthropic trust dedicated to supporting UVA. (Kittredge is the former chair of the UVA School of Architecture Foundation Board, on which Stone also served.)
In addition to funding the Stone Garden, Stone Dining Room and the Stone lecture, the trust endowed the Clay Thomas Memorial Scholarship, memorializing a college friend of Stone and Kittredge’s. The trust has also given pledges and gifts to fund the Kolodiz directorship of the Jewish Studies Program in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Rachel Winer Manin interdisciplinary graduate fellowship in Jewish Studies.
In his spare time, Thatcher enjoyed skiing, sailing and piloting airplanes, a hobby he took up during his undergraduate years at UVA. Later in life, he owned two single-engine aircraft of his own.
Over the years, Kittredge flew as Stone’s passenger up and down the East Coast, and they also took half a dozen ski trips together to Switzerland and France, Kittredge said.
“He was passionate about aviation, which is why he taught aviation law at the Law School,” Kittredge said. “He loved sailing, he loved skiing and he loved supporting the University.”
When the Stone Dining Room was dedicated in 2002, then-Dean John C. Jeffries Jr. ’73 shared this anecdote about Thatcher Stone’s longstanding relationship with UVA Law and North Grounds, dating all the way back to his undergraduate years when he drove the University bus line’s North Grounds route. One night, on a date with his girlfriend at Court Square Tavern, he told her he would like to go to the Law School and “make his mark” through the law. She predicted that the only mark he would leave at the Law School would be rubber tire marks from turning the bus in the circle in front of the school.
“She was quite wrong,” Jeffries said in recent remarks. “Thatcher did make his mark in the Law and left his mark on the Law School, which benefited greatly from his leadership and generosity.”
A memorial service for a celebration of Stone’s life will be held at the University in June during his 45th college reunion.
Law School Foundation President and CEO Luis Alvarez Jr. ’88 said Stone “was a great and special friend of the Law School, loyal to his classmates and a tireless promoter of our efforts.”
“He was never without his UVA cap or tie, and always led with his heart,” Alvarez said. “I speak for all who knew Thatcher in saying he was one of a kind and will be missed.”
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.
Media ContactMelissa Castro Wyatt