May 12, 2016

Rebecca Sykes visits campus for dedication of namesake Wellness Center

The state-of-the-art facility supports student health, both mental and physical.
by Phillips Academy

It was an emotional return to campus for former associate head of school Becky Sykes when the new Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center was dedicated May 6. The state-of-the-art facility supports student health, both mental and physical, and is a fitting reflection of the Strategic Plan’s emphasis on empathy and balance.

After warm opening remarks from Board President Peter Currie ’74 and Head of School John Palfrey, Sykes addressed the crowd assembled on the lawn outside the center. With characteristic graciousness, she spent much of her speech thanking the many supporters who made the Sykes Wellness Center possible; she also teared up as she noted that it was the first building on campus named for an African American woman.

Sykes, who left PA in 2013 to head the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, wore numerous hats during her 40-year tenure at Andover, from college counselor to residential dean to dean of Community and Multicultural Development. To each role she brought a warmth, strength, and compassion that made her a fitting namesake for the new wellness center. “The conversations about whether and how to honor you by putting your name on the front of this building were some of the shortest and most joyful conversations I’ve ever been involved in,” said Palfrey. “The answer was, ‘Of course we ought to name the building for Becky Sykes.’”

Both before and after the formal ceremony, Sykes—accompanied by her husband, faculty emeritus Elwin Sykes, and their sons, Emmet ’92, Eliot ’97, and Emerson ’01—was surrounded by well-wishers and friends, all of whom seemed thrilled to see her on a rare visit to campus. For many, it was a joyous reunion with a beloved former colleague. But perhaps the most telling moment came when Sykes stopped a student—a senior now, a junior when Sykes last worked at PA—on her way into the wellness center. “Hi, Angela!” she called, greeting the student with a hug. “You can’t sneak by me!” And then—on a day when all possible kudos might by rights have gone to Sykes—she congratulated her former student on her upcoming graduation and sent her on her way.

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Categories: Academics

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