Notices sorted by graduation date.
John B. “Jack” Syer
Feb. 22, 1939–Jan. 1, 2019
Syer righted course of UVA Alumni Association
Former president of the University of Virginia Alumni Association John Ballard “Jack” Syer (Col ’61 L/M) died in Charlottesville on Jan. 1, 2019, after a four-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Syer joined the Alumni Association in 1993 following a career as an executive at several companies in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, where he grew up.
“He was instrumental in rebuilding the trust with the University and the [Association’s governing] board,” says Donna Arehart (Com ’79), whom Syer hired as chief financial officer in 1995.
When he took over the Alumni Association, Arehart says, it was struggling financially and had strained relations with the University. Syer helped rebuild the Association’s depleted endowment and improve University relations.
Syer “was capable of defending the Alumni Association and its interests to Carr’s Hill, and at the same time doing it in a way that everyone appreciated,” says former association Board of Managers chair Richard Tilghman (Col ’62 L/M).
“He was the consummate gentleman,” Arehart says. “Always the diplomat. A master negotiator.”
He was especially proud, she says, of the creation of the Jefferson Trust, an endowment that supports donor-chosen projects that benefit the University. The fund, which has grown to more than $30 million, has awarded more than $7 million in grants since its inception in 2006.
Syer helped position the Association “as an organization that could develop new things, nurture them to the point of maturity and then see them make a great contribution to the University,” Tilghman says.
Beyond his accomplishments, Syer was known for his generous leadership.
“Jack was an exceptionally kind and gentle man, and he maintained a great sense of humor no matter the circumstances,” wrote former Virginia Magazine editor Robert Viccellio (Col ’92) in an email. “He was an effective and inclusive leader at the Alumni Association—Jack had a genuine interest in the lives of all the people he worked with.”
Syer maintained an open-door policy for staff and alumni, though in the office “he was almost helpless” because he didn’t know how to type, says his longtime executive assistant Joyce Shiflett. Nevertheless, she says, “it was such a joy working with him.”
Following his retirement in 2006, Syer served on the council of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and enjoyed painting, golfing and visiting World War II battle sites in Europe.
Survivors include his wife, Virginia; two children, John B. Syer Jr. (Col ’87 L/M) and Virginia Syer Genereux (Darden ’92); his daughter-in-law, Beth Vaughan Syer (Col ’85 L/M); and four granddaughters, including Vaughan Syer (Col ’19 L/M) and Virginia Syer (Col ’21).