Donald “Don” Sykes, longtime executive director of Social Development Commission, passed away on Aug. 13. He was 80 years old
Sykes led the staff of the Social Development Commission, an anti-poverty agency in Milwaukee, for 20 years from 1968 to 1988.
“The magnitude of Don’s intellect, hard work, and many, many contributions was recognized at the national level when he served the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Relations for the Clinton Administration,” the Social Development Commission (SDC) said in a statement. “Recognition at the national level further demonstrates how truly fortunate the Milwaukee community was to have Don care about the betterment of our city and residents.”
Sykes was born in Chicago in 1936 and studied social sciences at Northern Illinois University. He would later earn a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sykes was the foundation in building Milwaukee County’s largest anti-poverty agency. “He worked tirelessly on behalf of low-income people and the community as a whole. He was resolute in his efforts not only at SDC, but also throughout both his professional career and public-spirited service,” the SDC statement continued.
In 2006, Sykes was chosen to lead a community-wide planning process to establish a Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for Milwaukee. As the leader of Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), he achieved significant success diversifying and dramatically increasing funding sources and partnerships for MAWIB.
“Don was a pioneer in this community, an exceptional man, and a stalwart individual who gave of himself at the highest level. We share our heartfelt condolences with his loving family, circle of friends and former coworkers,” the SDC statement said. “His legacy at SDC, and throughout the community, will forever be remembered and the impact he made on our community will shine into the future.”