Historic and elite universities need to manage their reputation whilst facing up to problematic aspects of their own history. We determine contemporary readings of place and space require narratives to align with current, corporate thinking and values. In recent years, colonialism and slavery have been at the forefront of campaigns which, while they tend to originate as student-led, have resulted in historic universities having to ‘face up’ to their own role. We here focus on the University of Virginia which alongside nearby Monticello, has symbolic and charismatic hagiographic remembering afforded to the founder Thomas Jefferson. We note how competitively selected student guides are evidencing cultural change in the present as well as forming part of the alumni and present student ‘family’, where pride in place is contingent on such openness. Our study makes a contribution to our understanding of historic universities as heritage businesses.