Biography provided by Wayne Curtis, March 2016
Wayne N. Curtis b. April 29, 1960 Fredericksburg, Virginia William and Mary, Class of 1982
Wayne fell in love with William and Mary at the age of 10, while on the 4th Grade Virginia History trip that all grade schoolers took to Williamsburg and Jamestown. He applied Early Decision in the fall of 1977 and was accepted. While at W&M he was not particular active in the early gay student organization, the Lambda Alliance, but was in William and Mary Choir, Sinfonicron Light Opera Company, Backdrop Theatre Club, and appeared in several main stage productions in the Theatre Department. He served as a President’s Aide to President Thomas Graves in his senior year. Wayne graduated with a Bachelor’s in History in May of 1982 and continued his studies at the University of Delaware that autumn, receiving a Master’s Degree in American History and a Certificate of Museum Studies in June of 1984.
His first job took him to Boston, working at the Paul Revere Memorial Association from 1984 until 1986. While he was officially ‘laid off’ from his position on the museum staff, it was clear to him that a co-worker’s recent diagnosis of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) motivated the Association to dismiss him out of a fear that he would get sick also and require expensive medical care and disability leave.
After a few months on unemployment, Wayne answered an ad in the local gay paper, Bay Windows, for a staff member at Alyson Publications. He’d soon discover that Alyson was one of the first, and definitely the largest gay-run publishing company in the country. He was hired and soon became Assistant Publisher, working with owner Sasha Alyson (real name Jonathan Schaller) in the typesetting, layout, production, and direct marketing of dozens of gay and lesbian themed works of fiction and non-fiction. Through his associations with Alyson, he was able to meet and work with Joseph Beam, Congressman Gerry Studds, fellow W&M alumnus John Boswell, John Preston, Michael Nava, as well as pioneering publishers from around the country.
It was while he was working at Alyson that he first got word of a movement among W&M alumni in the Washington DC area to form a Gay and Lesbian Alumni group (GALA) for William and Mary. He’d been aware of activities in the Boston area, at Harvard and other universities, as well as similar efforts around the country, and quickly signed on to the nascent group, and by 1988 was the first member of W&M GALA’s Board of Directors not living in the DC area.
Wayne left Alyson in the summer of 1989 and began working on his own with the typographical and layout skills he’d learned there. His clients included theater companies, local publications and colleges, and eventually got a part time stint as Assistant Art Director at New Age Journal magazine, and Production Assistant at Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers.
His role at Kluwer grew and he headed their North American production department, setting up the Dutch publisher’s most efficient and cost effective book production group.
With good friend Michael Rogan as GALA President, Wayne became GALA Vice President in 1992 and together they spearheaded the organization’s plans for observance of the College’s Tercentenary in 1993, creating a Homecoming 1993 schedule of events that greatly increased the group’s attendance, enlarged their membership roster, and put them on a stable financial footing for the first time since their founding in 1986.
At that point, Curtis took a break from the GALA Board, serving as an advisor to subsequent presidents until moving back into the Chesapeake region — to Baltimore — in 1997. He received a license to practice real estate in Maryland in 1997.
He took up the role of GALA Treasurer in that year, and as the keeper of the membership roster, he migrated it to a database that could run on a desktop computer. For the first time GALA kept track of giving histories, levels of support, and took expanded efforts to keep addresses current, as well as keeping track of mortality among the members.
At the end of the term of President Joe Price, Curtis accepted the office of President of the GALA Board in 2004. The organization was going through a decline in participation, although dues renewals and fundraising were still strong. Curtis was able to keep GALA running and influential in campus issues, and occasionally boosting the enthusiasm and participation of its members through successful anniversary celebrations, such as the 20th Anniversary Dinner in 2006. This event would be a watershed for several reasons. The 20th Anniversary was the first formal GALA event to be attended by the sitting President of the College, Gene Nichol. It was also where the organization formally announced the successful completion of an ambitious campaign to raise the Cornish Endowment Fund at Swem Library to the $100,000 mark. It was also the last event where all GALA presidents, past and present, would be able to gather in one place. Founding president Stephen Snell would die the following year.
Following quickly upon the death of another early GALA members and Board Member, Stephen Patrick, Snell’s passing was a shock to the organization. Curtis proposed that GALA rename its newly-born oral history project the Stephens Project in memory of these two important figures in the organization’s history. He proudly sat down for one of the first oral history interviews for the new project in 2008.
Curtis also began his efforts to achieve two long-sought accomplishments. The first of these was to establish a GALA Foundation as an official non-profit corporation. Through connections with Joe Price’s former law firm, and the unwavering oversight by Michael Rogan, GALA was able to secure pro bono legal services to work through the IRS labyrinth and get that project underway.
Curtis’ second goal was to obtain the rights to the William and Mary Tartan. The Tartan had been commissioned and created by Stephen Snell, originally with the intention of offering it to Swem Library, but that the College was unable to accept it at that time. Once the Cornish Fund had reached its fundraising goal, the Tartan lay on Stephen’s desk, among his papers, without a purpose. Ultimately, with the blessing of Snell’s heir and of the College’s legal officers, the Tartan was transferred through GALA to the GALA Foundation, as its intellectual property, to be used to assist in raising funds.
GALA’s silver anniversary was to be one of the most successful weekends in the organization’s history. Held during Homecoming in the fall of 2011, it opened with a well attended Friday-night reception and reading in Swem Library. The anniversary dinner on Saturday night was a particular watershed. It was the first GALA event ever held in the Wren Building, and was the first since 1993 where more people wanted to attend than could be accommodated. At that event, President Revely addressed the assembly, and the successful establishment of the GALA Foundation was announced.
After 8 years, Curtis was able to turn over the GALA leadership the following year to a new generation of GALA members, and Scott Binnings became president. Wayne remained on the Board as Treasurer and advised in the negotiation of the agreement between GALA and the Alumni Association to merge in 2014. He was able to take the last act of closing out the old corporation’s bank account and disbursing its proceeds according to the directions of the Board of Directors in 2015. Later that year, he turned over all of his remaining GALA records to the Special Collections Division at Swem Library.
Since 2014, Curtis has been President of the Board of the William and Mary GALA Foundation. In 2015 he became a class ambassador for the class of 1982, assisting the Office of University Development in raising funds for the College’s endowment.
Professionally, Curtis has been a Realtor in the Baltimore region since 1997 and has participated in efforts to revitalize and encourage home ownership in the city. The National Association of Realtors named him one of six “Homeownership Heroes” in 2012, with an award presented at their national convention in Orlando, Florida that November. He has been on the management team of his brokerage since 2011 and currently sells real estate and manages one of the firm’s five offices in Central Maryland. Since 1998, he’s lived with his life partner, Edward, and a succession of well-loved Basenji dogs.
- Wayne Curtis in SCRC Dtabase
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