Becky Sykes to Head Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation

Sitting in front of a sketchpad filled with keywords and tasks, Becky Sykes reflected on the numerous aspects of Andover life that she has overseen as the Associate Head of School over the past 17 years, and the spaces she will leave behind when she departs in the fall after 40 years at Andover.

This chart will kickstart the process of finding a new Associate Head of School after Sykes leaves to become the first President of the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation.

Sykes will remain as Associate Head of School through the summer, working with Head of School John Palfrey as he restructures the position to fit his needs. Palfrey will use the 2013-2014 school year to rethink the title before appointing a new administrator to fill the role.

“When anybody has been here for 40 years, and done such an amazing job as Mrs. Sykes has, the jobs sometimes come to describe the individual, or to be built upon the individual strengths of that person. So I don’t think it would make sense to try and find the next Mrs. Sykes—it’s just not possible—so I want to do it in a more deliberate fashion,” said Palfrey.

As Associate Head of School, Sykes oversees all residential life. Max Alovisetti, Director of Psychological Services, Anne Gardner, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, Linda Griffith, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development, Mike Kuta, Athletic Director, and Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, all currently report to Sykes.

When Sykes leaves, she and Palfrey will work to divide her responsibilities among existing faculty members this summer.

“In a lot of cases, there’s somebody who’s working on [a job] who she oversees… [This] is not the long-term solution, but that’s the one we can do for the coming year,” said Palfrey.

Sykes has not been previously involved with the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, but was selected as the search committee reviewed teachers and top administrators at many schools, she said. She will work closely with the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Although Sykes has yet to decide where she and her husband will reside in the United States after they leave Andover in September, she said that she will spend approximately eight months of her first year at the South African school.

As Sykes is the first person to be President of the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, the job description is not yet definite. She said that she will help create this description as she steps into the role. Primary tasks will include day-to-day work with the Leadership Academy as well as fundraising efforts.

“I think one of the things I’m looking forward to is continuing the work with the school, I’ve been working with schools for a very long time and so the fact that this is a foundation that is related to a school, a school for girls in South Africa, means that I will still have contact with students and still be involved with helping to develop the program there and to make it sustainable, because part of my job obviously is on the finance side, raising money for the school,” said Sykes.

Sykes’ fundraising for the Leadership Academy will be a natural extension of her work at Andover, as she has been involved in many fundraising efforts here with Peter Ramsey, Secretary of the Academy. In addition, Sykes has held many other positions at Andover, including Social Functions Director, House Counselor, Cluster Dean and Dean of CAMD.