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December 10, 2021

Phillips Academy mourns passing of Trustee Emeritus Sidney R. Knafel ’48

His vision and generosity will benefit students, faculty, and the art world for generations
by Tracy M. Sweet
Sidney R. Knafel ’48

Amy Falls ’82, P’19, ’21, president of the Phillips Academy Board of Trustees, shared sad news of the passing of Trustee Emeritus Sidney R. Knafel ’48. The loyal alumnus and generous benefactor made an impact matched by few others in the history of the Academy.

“Sid’s wisdom in the boardroom guided Andover through both prosperous and challenging times,” said Falls. “He led with candor, humor, institutional insight, and strategic problem-solving skills. I am grateful that I was able to learn from and work with Sid. I will forever admire his profound impact as a philanthropist and as a graceful, passionate leader.”

Head of School Raynard Kington, MD, PhD, P’24, characterized Knafel’s legacy as far-reaching and central to the school’s mission. “Vision matched with generosity has incredible power to transform lives,” he said. “Our students, faculty, and the world of arts and culture have lost a true visionary whose impact will continue to inspire us.”

Knafel’s philanthropy and leadership touched many lives and advanced important campus initiatives. His generosity was felt most profoundly at the Addison Gallery of American Art, where he chaired the Addison’s Board of Governors from 2000 to 2015. He steered the museum through an expansion, a capital campaign, two directorial transitions, and a strategic plan. His extraordinary generosity, passion for art, and firm belief in the Addison’s ability—in his words—to “support, and indeed, to lead the school’s pedagogical ambitions” benefited the museum in transformative ways.

As co-chair of the Addison capital campaign, Knafel led the effort that culminated in a multimillion-dollar renovation of the gallery. In recognition of his leadership, the Knafel Museum Learning Center was named in his honor. Addison Director Allison Kemmerer reflected on what the center has become: “It is a space that provides exceptional opportunities to look, to teach, and to learn through art…While the Addison has lost a dedicated trustee, wise advisor, and generous supporter, the world has lost a wonderful human being.”

Board of Governors Chair Stephen Sherrill ’71, P’05, ’07, ’10, also served with Knafel as a PA trustee. “Sid contributed immeasurably—as a donor, an advocate, and a devoted leader—to making the Addison the museum that it is today. He was always inspirational, generous, and insightful. We will miss him deeply.”

Influencing the curriculum, Knafel expanded access to primary sources by establishing the Sidney R. Knafel Map Collection and endowing the Knafel Geographer at Large. He supported the renovation of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library in 2018 and its curatorial-quality spaces, creating a home for the map collection. Emma Frey, instructor in history and social science and geographer at large, remembered Knafel’s deep knowledge of the maps, atlases, and globes in the collection.

Knafel Map Collection in Use

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Faculty work with the Knafel Map Collection.

Students examine the Knafel Map Collection

Trustees go back to the classroom with the Knafel Map Collection.

“When he visited Andover,” said Frey, “he always made time to learn how students and faculty worked with the collection. He once wrote that he hoped ‘...the perspective [that students] gained of the past will reinforce their leadership skills and serve a peaceful and humane world society in the future.’”

Teachers from all disciplines have used the collection to enrich their classes, she added. “Using maps, teachers encourage exploration of perspective and promote skills of attention, focus, and mindfulness necessary for developing a deeper comprehension of what maps do and don’t depict.”

“It is remarkable that Sid had such a profound impact over more than 70 years as an alumnus, when he had only attended Andover for one year,” reflected Falls. “His example of the power of non sibi is an inspiration to our entire community.”

Categories: Alumni, Leadership

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