November 5, 2019
Larry Sykoff, Ranney School headmaster emeritus was recently honored by the University of San Diego (USD) with the President Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award.
In his final big-league game, former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter gave the Bronx faithful one last thrill when he delivered a game-winning single to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
It was a storybook ending fit for a legend after 20 years of magic and dedication to a single franchise and fan base.
While traveling to San Diego to receive this prestigious accolade, Sykoff said he hopes there are some similarities between the way he and the future baseball Hall of Fame inductee conducted themselves.
“I told my wife, when I retire, I want to go out at the top of my game like (Derek Jeter). He was more than a terrific baseball player. He was a captain and a great leader who helped carry that (Yankees) culture into the next generation by setting an example for today’s players,” Sykoff said. “When people look back on the history of Ranney, it will show the evolution of a school I helped build on a wonderful foundation already in place, securing a strong future.”
A USD alumnus who earned a doctorate in educational leadership and administration, as well as a master’s in education in organizational leadership, Sykoff took the reins of Ranney in 1993 and, after a two-decade run of his own, retired at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
During his 21-year tenure as Ranney’s third headmaster, the school experienced unprecedented modernization and expansion, including the formation of an endowment, the construction of state-of-the-art learning environments and athletic facilities for primary, secondary and high school students, as well as the advancement of technological infrastructure to evolve with the curricular demands of a digital society. Numerous traditions were established that still prevail today.
Through all the developments, Sykoff watched as enrollment numbers climbed and Ranney’s reputation as a top college preparatory school in New Jersey grew.
“These were the exciting growing years for Ranney. We recognized that and understood that we had to strengthen the foundation, put the school on the map nationally and create staying power,” Sykoff said. “I think we did that. We built off the vision of Russell Ranney, who had the vision for a school with high academic expectations. I embraced that and I’m thankful I had educators, parents, board members, students, alumni and many community leaders who shared this dream with me.”
In addition to rigorous academic standards, Sykoff said the school’s stature has endured due to a philanthropic culture he cultivated over 20 years through leadership.
Sykoff is an avid long-distance runner who has participated in six national marathons and one mini-triathlon in New York City, which has provided a platform for him to give back. Through a partnership with the Achilles Track Club of New York, Sykoff volunteered to guide a visually impaired athlete from Trinidad through one of those races. “I was there to lead him, but he was a much better marathon runner,” he said. “Really, he was leading me. It’s something I’ll never forget. We still keep in touch to this day and it’s a story I’ve used to demonstrate to students that there are so many ways to give back. Find something that you’re passionate about and figure out how to use that passion to help others.”
From left, Nicholas Ladany, dean on USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences; Larry Sykoff; and James T. Harris III, president of San Diego University.
Sykoff is also a talented musician and was embraced by students and invited to play with Ranney’s concert jazz band. That desire to interact with young minds beyond the typical educational setting led to another altruistic endeavor.
The Docs of Rock is a music collective of medical and educational doctors that performs for charitable organizations and at community events and to date has raised upward of $2.5 million for nonprofit organizations.
“When I was putting this band together we were having trouble coming up with a name,” said Sykoff, who is the band’s lead guitarist. “Then I remembered a nickname Bruce (Springsteen) gave me. He used to call me the Doc of Rock.”
Sykoff forged a musical friendship with Springsteen when the Boss’ children attended Ranney. During that time, Springsteen performed at a handful of fundraising events for the school.
“So the band name has stuck,” Sykoff said.
During his time as headmaster, the school’s board of trustees honored Sykoff by establishing the Lawrence S. Sykoff Fellowship Award, a funding grant for teachers and administrators pursuing advanced studies and research.
Following his 2013 retirement, the board named him headmaster emeritus and established the Lawrence S. Sykoff Leadership Award, which is presented each year to a graduating senior. Additionally, the board named the middle and upper school building the Lawrence Sykoff Center for Excellence in his honor.
As the founder of a management consulting practice, LSS Consulting Group, Sykoff’s role has shifted but not completely changed. “The consulting work has allowed me to share the ‘accumulated road dust’ with non-profit organizations, helping them realize their full potential,” he said. While the consulting practice is regional, he has helped many nonprofits in the Red Bank area.
“As one of my former professors said at the awards ceremony, ‘Larry never retired he just rewired. Leadership and contribution are in his DNA.’ ”
But among all the achievements and honors, including multiple United States Congressional Service awards and community recognitions, it’s the relationships and unbreakable bonds with students Sykoff said he cherishes the most.
“During my entire career I committed to lead by example. The satisfaction from this approach comes regularly these days. A month doesn’t go by that my wife and I don’t receive an email or a letter from a former student or parent letting us know who’s graduating, who’s getting married, who had their first child. And even more powerful are the students who reach out to let us know they may be going through a challenging time, but that they’ll make it through the other side because of what was instilled in them at Ranney,” Sykoff said.
“For all the years of leadership and community involvement, what’s most important to remember is that that legacy is created by the outreach to others. It lives forever in the hearts of those you touch. That’s where your legacy lives,” Sykoff said.
“Receiving the USD Career Achievement Award summarized for me a career of leadership and service. It’s an extraordinary honor for which I am most grateful.”
This article was first published in the October 31 – November 6, 2019 – print edition of The Two River Times.