Longtime YW Boston CEO Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Retires

Photo By Nate Photography

BOSTON – September 13, 2017

Mim Minichiello, Chair of the YW Boston Board of Directors, announced today that after 10 years, Sylvia Ferrell-Jones has retired from her role as President and CEO in order to focus on her health and family.  Ferrell-Jones has been quietly but ferociously battling cancer for the past two-and-a-half years.  Beth Chandler, YW Boston’s Chief Operating Officer will serve as Interim President and CEO effective immediately. “With Sylvia, we have been truly blessed to have this calm leader with a roaring river of passion for the pursuit of equality.  She has labored to move our mission forward, worked tirelessly to empower our city to reach its fullest potential, and sincerely helped me grow as a person.  I am also thankful to her family for loaning her to us all these years,” said Minichiello.

Raised in New Jersey, Ferrell-Jones’ parents instilled a sense of community early on in her life. Her father, an engineer started an organization to promote race relations in their small mostly white town. Ferrell-Jones went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University, then went on to be one of the few African-American women in her class to earn a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School.

In joining YW Boston, Ferrell-Jones’ leadership has proven instrumental in the agency’s resurgence from financial difficulties to an expansion that included adding programs such as LeadBoston, and Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity.   Among the difficult decisions Ferrell-Jones made was the sale of its residential facility at 40 Berkeley Street and the outsourcing of the YW Boston’s property management operation at its headquarters at 140 Clarendon Street.  The real driver for Ferrell-Jones however has always been her passion for YW Boston’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. 

Mayor Marty Walsh said, “Sylvia Ferrell-Jones has been a champion for racial and gender equity throughout her career. Whether Sylvia was shining a light on the wage gap, empowering and educating police, teachers, parents and executives through YW’s outstanding programs, or empowering women and girls by giving them the tools they need to take charge of their own health and wellness, Sylvia has been moving the needle in Boston for years. I am grateful for all she has contributed and I will miss her persistence and commitment.”

For twenty years prior to joining YW Boston, Ferrell-Jones focused on management of real-estate based assets, serving as a director at AEW Capital Management,  and as a principal investment officer with the state of Connecticut Trust Funds, with portfolios ranging up to $2 billion. Ferrell-Jones quickly stood out for her skill and accomplishment, but also as one of very few African American women in the industry.  Later she moved into the nonprofit sector as Director of Agency Development for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, where she provided governance, management and fundraising consultations to a $26 million not-for-profit affiliate portfolio.

Most recently, in her timely letter “What we Stand for in 2017”, Ferrell-Jones said, “In 2017, YW Boston calls for reform, not revolution.  We call for respectful and enlightening dialogue, not shame and blame.  We will search out the people, organizations, and institutions that are demonstrating the practices of equity, and shine a light on them.  We will disseminate high quality, actionable information about areas of inequity, so that they may be addressed.  We will continue to provide programs that educate and empower people to take action towards a more equitable society, from exploring personal bias to changing laws.” And she has been doing just that.

The mission of this 151-year-old organization, the first YWCA in America, has always been important, but events over the past year have demonstrated just how pertinent this work continues to be.  Beth Chandler, who has worked closely with Ferrell-Jones since joining the organization in 2012 will be taking the helm as Interim CEO of YW Boston. Chandler received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Columbia Business School, and has more than 20 years of experience in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors.  Like Ferrell-Jones, Chandler is a LeadBoston alum and brings a passion for the work. She looks forward to building on the work and achievements of Ferrell-Jones, as YW Boston continues the work to fight for gender and racial equity.

Ferrell-Jones has held leadership roles with numerous community and professional organizations, including local, regional and national real estate organizations; the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ; Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay; LeadBoston; and The Partnership.  She has also been a soccer coach and is licensed to coach at the high school level, and sings with the Back Bay Chorale and her church choir. Sylvia served on the board of directors for United Church Funds; Andover Newton Theological School; and the Wellesley Centers for Women, as well as on an advisory board for Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network, and the corporate advisory board for Women of ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting).

YW Boston has established The Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund, which  honors the legacy of this visionary leader’s decade of passion and commitment as YW Boston’s President and CEO and provides general operating support to the organization. The funds directly support YW Boston’s work to eliminate racism and empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. To donate in Sylvia’s honor, click here.


About YW Boston

YW Boston has been a leader in building a better Boston for all since 1866, when it was founded as the first YWCA in the nation. Today, YW Boston serves Bostonians with programs that educate + empower people across racial, gender, class, and organizational lines.  Programs include LeadBoston, Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity, Youth Leadership Initiative, Girls Health, Women’s Health & Wellness, Youth/Police Dialogues, as well as through events such as the Academy of Women Achievers, Stand Against Racism, and the upcoming Elevating Lives Series. YW Boston is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. 


Press Contact: 

Annie Garmey
Chief Development Officer
(617) 585-5436