Nancy Landry Sylvester '75
By Claire Burns
There is a popular hypothesis, "six degrees of separation," holding that any two people are separated by a chain of no more than six acquaintances. According to Nancy Sylvester, the chain often shortens when it comes to Springfield College people.
"We travel a lot and – talk to anyone – there's usually a Springfield College connection," she says. "There's also a theme. People know Springfield College graduates for doing good for others. They're not 'me' people. They're wholesome. That's why my dad went to Springfield. And, those are the values with which he and my mother raised our family."
Sylvester was born when her parents, Clifford A. Landry Jr.'54 and Jane, were living in on-campus married student housing. "The conditions were pretty basic – cold water and ice boxes – but the married students were like an extended family. Some of them told me years later that they remembered my mother pushing me in a stroller to dad's football games – he was the quarterback," she says.
Attending the annual home shows was a family tradition. "Being on the campus felt like WOW, this college is the pinnacle. And, everybody was so friendly. I vowed that I'd come here." She applied to no other colleges.
The degree of separation was zero when Sylvester applied for her first job as a physical education teacher. "The college's reputation preceded me, and I got the interview over more than 100 applicants." She got the job because of her qualifications. Later, when she was hiring applicants, Springfield College graduates stood out. "They were the best educated, had manners, dressed professionally, and asked good questions," she says.
"So many people know Springfield College as a world leader in physical education. The curriculum was strong and far-reaching. It equipped me to teach in grades K through 12 in physical education, health sciences, and adaptive physical education. Some graduates also went into a wide range of careers in medicine and health sciences," she recalls.
Zero degrees of separation were also the realty when Sylvester searched for housing. Two teachers, also recent Springfield College grads, invited her to be a roommate because she was a fellow alum, even though they didn't know her. They've been friends since then.
Sylvester cites a litany of degrees of separation from Springfield College among her relatives, people married to her relatives, and friends or relatives of a number of them, but one example stands out. When a devastating tornado ripped through the campus in 2011, Springfield College qualified for federal recovery funds for certain damages, and the FEMA officer presenting the check was her brother Mark H. Landry. "He was so pleased to have that connection to the College. If dad were alive, he would have been at Mark's side," she says proudly.
Sylvester notes that the chain of acquaintances that eventually connects everybody to a Springfield College person is affected by the College's core values. "It seems that the people who Springfield College touches, and those who they touch, are influenced by the priority that we place on service. I, and my husband Russ who is a pediatrician, feel blessed that our daughters have chosen fields that give back. Sarah '13 is pursuing her master of social work degree at Springfield College, and Allison is a nurse.
"Russ and I have discussed how the undergraduate colleges that we each attended are doers of good, just like the church we support, so we've made provisions for them to receive a percentage of our estate," says Sylvester, who has been a regular contributor to the College since 1986. "These colleges have had great influence on our family. They're part of our legacy. And, we want to help sustain them and perpetuate their ideals."