Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service

The Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service is the college’s highest honor. It is presented to individuals who exemplify Susan Colgate Cleveland’s attributes, ensuring that her work, dedication and influence will be remembered by future generations.

Laura Sykes ’98

Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty

Laura Sykes began her career at Colby-Sawyer College in 1993 when she joined the staff as a fitness specialist at the recently opened Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center. She soon became the director of the Hogan Center, and she served in that role for eight years, receiving the college’s Gown Award in 1997 and the Staff Employee of the Year Award in 2001.

Laura graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Colby-Sawyer in 1998. From there, she enrolled at Antioch University-New England, where she earned first a Master of Science in environmental studies in 2000 and then a Ph.D. in environmental studies in 2008. She joined the Colby-Sawyer environmental studies faculty in 2001, teaching classes not just in the classroom, but also in the White Mountains and other locations throughout the country. Her research has made her well versed in the flora of New England, able to identify hundreds of species, including invasive plants. She currently holds the rank of professor of environmental science.

Laura was awarded the Jack Jensen Award for Excellence in Teaching, the college’s highest teaching award, in 2009 and gave the Commencement address that year. She served as chair of the environmental studies department from 2013 to 2016 and was named New Hampshire’s Environmental Educator of the Year in 2014.

In 2016, Laura took on a one-year appointment as interim academic vice president. In 2017, the position became permanent, and she has served as academic vice president and dean of faculty for seven years. In that time, she has seen the college through a widescale review of academic programs, a strategic pivot to the health sciences at the undergraduate and graduate levels, the introduction of new programs and a redesign of the liberal education program. She also led the faculty through the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to introduce remote learning, then adapting policies and practices as guidelines and restrictions changed.

Laura will retire from the college in June, and she and her husband, Jon, both skilled rock climbers and mountaineers, will take to the road and travel the country in search of new adventures.