WILMINGTON, Del. – After 18 years as Executive Director of the Laffey-McHugh Foundation, David L. Sysko has announced he will retire later this year.
Since stepping into the role as Executive Director in 2000, Sysko has guided the Laffey-McHugh Foundation in awarding $58 million in grants to hundreds of nonprofit organizations throughout Delaware. Arthur G. Connolly, III, President of the Laffey-McHugh Foundation, credits Sysko as both a trusted advisor to the board and a valuable resource to many fledgling organizations that are now a vibrant part of Delaware’s community.
“We are proud of the Laffey-McHugh Foundation’s work over the past 60 years and what it has meant for our community, particularly the least advantaged,” Connolly said. “We are equally proud of the quality leadership we have had in Dave Sysko for 20 years. Dave is a genuine professional who helped lead our Foundation into the 21st century.”
Connolly said the search for the Foundation’s next Executive Director will begin immediately, but thanks to Sysko, the Board of Directors is in a strong position to continue building on the legacy and platform he leaves behind.
“Anyone who has watched Dave throughout his life, and especially over the last 25 years, will agree his contributions to this community will be long remembered,” Connolly said. “This is most evident at the Laffey-McHugh Foundation. His professional efforts guided us to a new level of grantmaking and accountability.”
Sysko began his professional career as an investment professional. He retired from Kidder Peabody & Co. as partner and Co-Head of the Private Clients Group in New York City in 1992. He then became President and CEO of C.F. Kettering, Inc, the personal holding company for the family of inventor Charles F. Kettering, who co-founded Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital.
During his time with C.F. Kettering, Dave also became active as a volunteer, most notably with Public Allies Delaware, a youth leadership development program he co-founded with his daughter Suzanne Sysko and long-time friend and Laffey-McHugh Foundation board member, Tony Allen. Today, nearly 700 young adults have graduated from Public Allies, volunteering more than one million hours of service to communities throughout Delaware.
In 1994, Sysko also founded the Dream Chasers, a rigorous academic program for at-risk, student athletes. Two-term Wilmington Mayor, Bill McLaughlin, Tony Allen and Sonia Sloan were the key founding members of this successful program that is funded in large part by the McLaughlin Education Fund. The program was later incorporated into the Boys & Girl Clubs of Delaware. Over the past two decades, hundreds of deserving young people have completed the program and gone on to college.
“Dave is the perfect combination of business savvy, tireless energy and heart,” said former Boys & Girl Clubs of Delaware President & CEO George Krupanski. “By his example, we changed how we did business at Boys & Girls Clubs and helped to better prepare our kids for a smaller, more competitive world.”
Reflecting on his tenure with the Laffey-McHugh Foundation, Sysko said assisting nonprofits through grantmaking was important, but he felt he made the most difference when he became involved with causes that mattered most to him personally.
“Laffey-McHugh was an anchor during an important period for me to share with and serve others,” Sysko said. “I am very thankful to the Board of Directors and am particularly grateful to Art Connolly, Jr., who was president of the Foundation for 20 years and whose friendship was one of the great joys of my life.”
After retirement, Sysko said he plans to continue volunteering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, The Mike Clark Legacy Foundation (MCLF), an award-winning mentor program for children he launched in 2008 with Peter Borden, Peter Cloud and Dave Ford and the Riverside Renaissance Redevelopment project headed by Charles McDowell.
About Laffey-McHugh Foundation
The Laffey-McHugh Foundation strives to serve this geographic area by investing in organizations that provide effective and crucial support to individuals and families who are most in need of help, practical assistance and guidance. It aims to partner with those not-for-profits that make a true impact in achieving a healthy and balanced standard of living for those who are most vulnerable and require access to food and nutrition, affordable housing, important medical care and vital education, as well as to strategic initiatives that include the arts and the environment.
The Laffey-McHugh Foundation was established in 1959 by Wilmington attorney Arthur G. Connolly, Sr., his wife Gerardine Laffey Connolly, and her first cousin and closest friend Alice Laffey McHugh. They have worked to improve the quality of life for all members of the population in Wilmington, the Brandywine Valley and beyond. Over the years, other family members and several leaders in the community were invited to join the Board of Directors and carry on the philanthropic legacy created by the original founders.