After more than 14 years as the University of Virginia’s dean of students, Allen W. Groves is departing to serve as senior vice president, student experience at Syracuse University. He will assume his new position July 1.
A 1990 graduate of the UVA School of Law, Groves was lured back to Charlottesville in 2006 by Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia M. Lampkin, giving up his legal career to dedicate himself to the advancement of UVA’s student experience.
“It has been a singular honor to serve my alma mater as University-wide Dean of Students these past 14 years,” Groves said. “I’ve led a remarkable team of professionals and worked alongside exceptional student leaders in striving to create the best possible experience for our students. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to do something I love at a place that has given me so much, stretching back to my own time as a student here.”
“Allen has been an extraordinary leader and advocate for our students, serving with great passion for, and dedication to, his work,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “As one of the most recognizable figures on Grounds, he has been an integral part of the student experience, and will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues. I’ve been personally grateful for his wise counsel, partnership and good humor, and I congratulate Syracuse on their outstanding new hire.”
Groves worked for 16 years as an attorney in Atlanta before returning to UVA as the first full-time development director for the Division of Student Affairs. Soon after, Groves was asked to serve as interim dean of students, which he did for nine months before being named associate vice president and dean of students in May 2008.
“Allen brought with him an infectious optimism that allowed him to engage our students in honest dialogue while always respecting their opinions and their differences,” Lampkin said. “He balanced humor, deep intellect and empathy as he navigated difficult issues and changing times in higher education.”
Beloved on Grounds, Groves is easily identifiable for his impeccable style and friendly demeanor. He can frequently be found on evenings and weekends strolling and chatting easily with students in his distinctive, resonant voice.
In 2013, bow-tied and beaming, he even shattered the Guinness World Record for “Most High-Fives by an Individual in One Hour,” at the request of Student Council, slapping hands with 2,470 students.
“Allen exudes great joy in engaging with our students. He loves their energy and their intellects, and the ability to challenge them to be their best selves – and to get the most out of their time here on Grounds,” Lampkin said.
“Dean Groves truly embodies the idea of selfless service to the University with his genuine interest in giving students the confidence and knowledge to succeed in our community of self-governance,” said Nik Popli, a graduating fourth-year student who met regularly with Groves as the Cavalier Daily’s editor-in-chief.
“What I appreciated the most about our meetings is how willing he is to candidly answer tough questions and acknowledge that we’re all human beings who can learn from our mistakes,” Popli added. “It’s hard to imagine UVA without Dean Groves, but I’m glad I can call him a friend and role model for what it means to be a leader in the service of others.”
Groves’ legal background and knowledge of First Amendment issues and their application in higher education was key to his success, according to Lampkin, allowing him to clearly communicate with students on a variety of topics and educate them at the same time.
UVA President Emerita Teresa A. Sullivan described Groves as possessing a rare combination of compassion and toughness.
“One of the many places where Allen shone was dealing with students and families of students who may have been having trouble or experiencing problems,” Sullivan said. “He was so gracious and present to them. He was available to everyone and especially to every single student. That personal touch made a huge difference for the institution.”
At Syracuse, Groves will help to oversee the university’s student experience, overseeing a large division that encompasses programs, services and personnel ranging from the student health and wellness center and career services to multicultural affairs and residential life.
“Allen’s unabashed love for UVA and our students will be missed, but he takes to Syracuse an extraordinary body of work and knowledge that will help him face new challenges with thoughtfulness and care,” Lampkin said. “I fully expect that he will continue to make important contributions to the ever-changing field of student affairs and higher education.”