Former LCC President Abel Sykes, Jr., 78, passed away Dec. 19, 2012 in California from natural causes.
Born in Kansas City, Sykes served as LCC’s second president from 1989 until 1999, when he retired to spend precious time with family and pursue a passion in photography, according to his obituary.
Before Sykes took the helm of steering LCC into a new technological age, he served four years in the United States Air Force and received his doctorate of education from the University of California at Los Angeles.
LCC’s Technology and Learning Center, which opened in 1998, was named after Sykes to commemorate his contributions to the college.
Dr. Dale Herder, Ph.D., who served as interim president of LCC until Sykes was inaugurated in 1989, worked with Sykes as his vice president of Academic Affairs until 1995. At that point, Herder returned to full-time status as a professor of English.
“Dr. Sykes was consistently professional in his demeanor and in his high expectations of college employees and students,” Herder said. “He frequently brought in consultants from outside LCC to help as he pressed for deep change in our culture, staffing demographics and a Board of Trustees governance model.
“By the time of his retirement … he had achieved his and the board’s goals, and he was seen by many members of our community, especially men and women of color, as a role model to be emulated when making LCC the logical college choice.”
Herder added that Sykes’ wife, Sylvia, was equally as gracious as her husband, and she brought dignity and a warm touch to his administration.
LCC Interim Provost Jack Bergeron said his favorite memory of Sykes was forming a musical quartet with him, Phil Denny and George Hirai.
“Abel Sykes played the saxophone, as do I,” Bergeron said. “We decided maybe we should get together and play; there was an employee who worked at the Photo Center at the time and his name was George Hirai. He played the baritone saxophone, I played tenor, and Abel played alto.”
Their group recruited Denny, who is now a recording artist, to play soprano.
“We formed an a acappella jazz saxophone quarter,” Bergeron said. “We had a lot of fun doing that … It was fun because you don’t think of hanging out with the president, especially when you’re a faculty member. I got to see a side of someone who is all about the arts and music.”
According to LCC Director of Public Affairs Ellen Jones, the LCC Board of Trustees will honor Sykes during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 25.
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