UVA Alumni Leader Jack Syer Has Died

Before coming to Alumni Hall, above, Jack Syer led the Virginia Student Aid Foundation.

One of the University of Virginia’s most dedicated alumni, Jack Syer, has died.

Syer, who led the UVA Alumni Association into the 21st century, died Jan. 1 at his home in Charlottesville. He was 79 and had battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, for four years.

John Ballard Syer, who grew up in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, graduated with a B.A. in history from the University’s College of Arts & Sciences in 1961 and was president of his class. While at UVA, Syer played varsity baseball and joined the Raven, IMP and T.I.L.K.A. societies.

He served two years in the U.S. Army after graduating. 

He was owner and chief executive officer of S&N Transportation Companies in Norfolk, president and chief operating officer of the venture subsidiary for Essex Financial Group in Norfolk, and a partner of Tidewater Home Health.

Syer became president of the Virginia Student Aid Foundation (now the Virginia Athletic Foundation) and served on the UVA Alumni Association board. In 1993, he assumed the role of president of the Alumni Association, a position he held until retiring in 2006. He helped found the Jefferson Trust, an association initiative that provides grant funding for projects that aim to enhance student and faculty experiences on Grounds. The trust has grown to dispense $700,000 in 2017-18 grant funding. 

Wayne Cozart, executive director of the Jefferson Trust and the UVA Alumni Association’s vice president of development, said, “During his tenure, Jack Syer built the Alumni Association into a strong financial institution and brought greater relations with an ever-growing and diverse alumni population.”

Fellow alumnus and former Board of Visitors member Leigh Middleditch called Syer “a loyal alumnus.”

In retirement, Syer became a member of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, founded by UVA neurosurgeon Dr. Neal Kassell, and remained an avid UVA sports fan.

Syer is survived by his wife, a son and daughter, their spouses and four granddaughters.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday at noon at Farmington Country Club. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Jefferson Trust.

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications