Ferrell-Jones, former CEO of YW Boston, dies after battling cancer

Sylvia Ferrell-Jones

Read this article on the Boston Business Journal website.

By   –  Associate Managing Editor, Boston Business Journal


Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, who stepped down this past September as president and CEO of YW Boston after a decade at the helm, died Wednesday at the age of 60 after battling cancer, according to an email sent on Friday from the interim head of the organization.

“It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of our dear friend Sylvia Ferrell-Jones,” said Beth Chandler, interim president of the YW Boston. “We, at YW Boston, extend our deepest condolences to her husband, Sal, daughter Lauren, and son Evan. Our hearts are with her family and the large community of friends she made through her work advancing women and racial equity.”

Ferrell-Jones had led the nonprofit — the nation’s first YWCA, which got its start in 1866 as the Boston Young Women’s Christian Association — since 2007, leading the organization through a rebranding effort in 2012 to reflect YW’s mission to combat racial disparities and social change.

In an email this past September announcing Ferrell-Jones’ departure, YW Boston board chair Mim Minichiello said Ferrell-Jones “has been quietly but ferociously” battling cancer for the past two-and-a-half years.

“During her time as President and CEO of YW Boston, Sylvia worked tirelessly to eliminate racism and empower women in Boston and beyond,” Chandler continued. “She encouraged and mentored hundreds of women, including me, and inspired us all to turn experiences of injustice and inequality into leadership and power. Sylvia was uniquely skilled at bringing people together across race, gender, class and sector. Her ability to bring diverse groups of people together for good continues as people contribute to the Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Fund to ensure that her legacy lives on well into the future.”

In a letter sent out in October thanking YW Boston for establishing a fund in her honor, Ferrell-Jones said, “Looking back at everything we have done together, I can see how far we have come and I rejoice at all of the progress made in our struggle to bring peace, justice and freedom for all. It means a great deal to me to have been at the helm of this community, pushing back on injustice and holding systems accountable for evolving laws and practices that exclude or punish people who do not fit neatly into oppressive societal molds.”