Wayne Cozart Sarah Cramer Shields

Wayne D. Cozart, executive director of the Jefferson Trust, founding father of modern-day Reunions and the impetus behind many of the University of Virginia Alumni Association’s other signature programs and initiatives, will retire at the end of the year.

His credits include helping to launch Black Alumni Weekend; Young Alumni Reunions; Young Alumni Council; Valediction exercises on a grander scale; and Alumni Interest Groups, communities built around past extracurricular activities, fraternities and sororities, race, ethnicity or sexual preference, among other affiliations.

Throughout, he has been a major fundraiser for the Association, supporting the merit-based Ridley Scholarship Fund for African-American students and growing the Jefferson Trust endowment to generate $1 million in annual grants to faculty and student projects.

“In so many ways, Wayne embodies the mission and spirit of the Alumni Association. In his nearly 40 years of service, he has created a lasting legacy—from Reunions to the Jefferson Trust,” says Association President and CEO Jenifer G. Andrasko (Darden ’10). “He is irreplaceable.”

So are his seemingly database-like powers of recall. “He has a unique and special ability to remember the connections that tie alumni together—that Joe Alum is Susan Alum’s cousin, whose roommate is now the governor’s assistant,” says Vice President for Engagement Jason Life (Col ’94, Educ ’96), whom Cozart recruited to Alumni Hall as a student intern in the 1990s. “That’s the asset that the Alumni Association is going to lose with his retirement.”

Cozart describes his knowledge of the alumni base as an early workplace survival skill. “If I’m talking to somebody from Richmond, I can tell you the Richmond begats, because I have to,” he says. It’s also why he’s made himself a walking encyclopedia of UVA history, one who’s dressed all but a few days a year in one of the 104 orange-and-blue ties he counts in his wardrobe.

Cozart, 71, graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1970, and then headed to New York to study film at Columbia University with influential Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris. After several hardscrabble years as a movie publicist, it was a friend, happenstance and a more hospitable way of life that lured Cozart to Charlottesville in 1980.

He spent his first years on Grounds as a program adviser to the student-run University Union, the forerunner to today’s University Programs Council. In those early years he became part of a circle of young staffers who found a common bond in having gone elsewhere to college. It’s how he got to know the woman he’d marry, Patricia M. Lampkin (Educ ’86), since 2002 UVA’s vice president and chief student affairs officer.

Says Lampkin, who in January announced her upcoming retirement, “It was a time where there were no signs on the buildings, because anybody that didn’t know where the building was shouldn’t be here.”

Cozart moved to Alumni Hall in 1984 with the mission of helping the College of Arts & Sciences, this in the days when the Association was the University’s primary development engine. Part of the assignment: Figure out a way to create a reunion program.

He modeled UVA’s on the success of several Ivy League programs, Princeton’s among them. Then he gave it a distinctly UVA touch—the power of plural. Just as the University has “Homecomings,” not “Homecoming,” and, at the time, “Openings,” Midwinters” and “Easters” weekends, each taking an “S” but a singular verb, Cozart introduced “Reunions.” He explains: “If you took the … existing traditions and built on those so that they were comfortable to what was, at the time, a relatively hidebound, inward-looking institution … you could actually be successful.”

He similarly lent a familiar ring to the unfamiliar when he worked with students to introduce “Mid-Autumns” weekend in the mid-1990s to launch Young Alumni Reunions.

A natural networker, Cozart created several networks for the Alumni Association. He established the Young Alumni Council, a resource and a talent pipeline for volunteer service around the University, including the Association’s Board of Managers. He engaged alumni before they became alumni, creating the Fourth-Year Class Trustees program and Second- and Third-Year Class Councils.

It all became important groundwork for the Alumni Association. Says Lampkin, “Class Councils … and the Young Alumni Council, all those seeds—I watched them build. And he built them.”

From these and other connections, including those from the years he ran the satellite UVA Clubs, he has accumulated a vast personal network. His Facebook page, at last check, counted 3,345 friends.

With retirement approaching, Cozart and Lampkin will give up close to 20 years of living on the Lawn, the consummate insider privilege for a couple first drawn together as UVA outsiders. They’ve made homes of Pavilions III, VIII and V.

Cozart continues to contemplate life after Alumni Hall. In the meantime, he says, “I am beginning to buy orange-and-blue casual clothes.”

Richard Gard (Col ’81) is the editor of Virginia Magazine.