On Thursday, October 18, nearly 300 Queens supporters gathered for the 23rd annual Royal Society dinner. The group celebrated Queens' tremendous progress, looked ahead to future goals, and founded a new tradition, the Queens Medallion. The inaugural medallion was presented to trustee emeritus John Sykes in recognition of his unparalleled leadership and philanthropy.
At the presentation, Queens President Pamela Davies said, "The Queens Medallion was conceived to recognize the very pinnacle of leadership at our university - men and women who have shaped the course of our history, embodied our values, and made us undeniably stronger than we would have been without their vision. It is fitting that John Sykes' extraordinary leadership will set the bar of this award in the years to come." In a final tribute to Mr. Sykes' generosity, senior Erin Williams gave the following speech, which brought the house to its feet.
"Good evening. My name is Erin Williams. I am from Asheville, North Carolina and will be graduating in the spring with an International Studies major and double minor in Spanish and Pre-Medicine.
It is an honor to be a part of this ceremony recognizing the great generosity of Mr. John Sykes, because it is his scholarship that has allowed me to spend four of the most enriching and memorable years of my life here at Queens.
When I was just a sophomore in high school, my Dad and I visited Queens' campus while I was in Charlotte playing in a tennis tournament. I found the campus so beautiful with its red brick buildings and green quads. I immediately loved Queens, but thought coming to college here was financially out of my reach. Three years later, it was the Sykes Scholarship that made it possible for me to become a Queens student and member of the women's tennis team.
I can still vividly remember walking out of West, now Hall-Brown-Overcash, every morning my freshman year and feeling so amazed that I was actually here. I have lived on campus all four years because I still love being able to walk out of my dorm to the campus that has become my home. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the opening of South Residence Hall, and my roommate and I moved from Wireman into our new suite in South. Our room has an amazing view of the uptown skyline. I know I have Mr. Sykes to thank for inspiring the design of this building, which has added to the comfort of our campus and made it much easier to find a parking space!
The past four years have been a personally transformational time, but they have also been a transformational time for Queens. I could not be more proud of the campus Queens is becoming with the addition of South, Rogers Hall, the Levine Center, and the addition of tennis courts at the Sports Complex. I cannot wait to return as an alumna and watch the Royals competing on their new courts.
But as you all know, Queens is more than just a beautiful campus. I've had the chance to take advantage of incredible academic and extracurricular opportunities, and I am so grateful for the support of the professors and administrators that I've gotten to know. The summer after my sophomore year, through a connection made by my Spanish professor, I was able to spend two months interning in a rural hospital in Piura, Peru. I lived with a host family, and then traveled the Incan trail to Machu Picchu. A year later, through the John Belk International Program, I had an opportunity to travel and study the culture of Italy. On campus, I am the captain of the Women's Tennis team, have worked as a Queens ambassador for visiting prospective students, and been a part of the Student Government Association. All of these experiences have made me the person I am today, and I'm grateful to Queens and the Sykes Scholarship for helping me realize my potential.
Mr. and Mrs. Sykes, I remember meeting you both in 2009 at the dinner you hosted for the Sykes Scholars. I was a freshman with aspirations to study international politics, become fluent in Spanish, and head to medical school after my four years here at Queens. I am still working on the Spanish, but last month I took the MCAT and I am on track to achieving my goal. It has been the most rewarding journey, and I could never have imagined that my college experience would be as incredible as it has been here at Queens University of Charlotte.
Mr. Sykes, I have made it my goal these past four years to follow your example, and give back to the school and donors that have given me so much. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to spend the four best years of my life here as a Queens Royal.
Your generosity is an inspiration and a blessing.
View video highlights from the 23rd Annual Royal Society Dinner