Lavonne Edwin Cox, the first employee of UC Irvine, died Tuesday, Aug. 26, from complications of a fall. He was 94.
Better known as L.E. Cox, the former army engineer was the first vice chancellor of business and finance. His job: To oversee the $30 million campus construction.
“He was very proud of being the first employee at UC Irvine,” said his son, Allan Cox, adding that his father remained in touch with many of his friends from the early days on campus.
“He was a meticulous man, who believed in following rules and regulations,” recalled Jean Aldrich, widow of UCI’s first chancellor, Daniel Aldrich. “Nothing escaped him. He was the very first person hired for UCI by (then-UC president) Clark Kerr – before Dan. He was a very important man on campus and a friend.”
Suzanne Peltason, a family friend and wife of UCI’s second chancellor, Jack Peltason, called him efficient and low-key. “He was a military man with courtly bearing,” she said.
Cox, who had helped build 24 air bases for the Army Corps of Engineers, arrived at the future site of UCI in 1961 driving a station wagon stuffed with office supplies. He set up his desk in a second-floor bedroom of the Irvine Ranch house, which was located across Irvine Boulevard from The Irvine Company’s agricultural headquarters. The family home became an eclectic mix of its cowboy past and its high-tech future.
“The bunkhouse lunches were almost an institution,” said Raymond Watson, vice president of The Irvine Company at the time, who worked downstairs from Cox. “Everyone wanted to be there. Nixon came by, and Ford…. There were lots of ranch hands, but only 10 of us working on the planning side.”
Cox continued to oversee building, landscaping and other facilities projects at UCI until his retirement in 1978. He made his home in Tustin. He is survived by his wife, Edna; sons Allan and Stephen; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 29, at Saddleback Chapel, 220 E. Main St., Tustin.
About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly 2,000 faculty members. The third-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.6 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
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