Read the acceptance speech.
The Shipley School Young Alumni Award recognizes a Shipley alumna or alumnus who has graduated within the preceding twenty years and demonstrates innovation, curiosity, and creativity in the pursuit of excellence in a particular field, whether it be in a profession, through formal volunteer activities unrelated to the School, or through a personal commitment to an issue, project, or cause.
As a Shipley senior, Molly Cyphers Berry ’02 was awarded the Class of 1944 Bowl, given to a student who represents the highest standard of citizenship in the class. She continued her commitment to excellence at Colgate University, where she majored in Art History with a minor in Film and Media Studies. Molly started her career at Sotheby’s auction house just down the road from Shipley in the company’s Haverford Office. At the age of 20, she had just finished her sophomore year at Colgate University and thought it would be an interesting way to spend the summer of 2004.
Eighteen years later, Molly is Vice President, Director of Service Operations for Sotheby’s worldwide headquarters in New York City, where she is responsible for the client experience in the galleries and auction rooms that span Sotheby’s 10-story building. In her role, Molly has also contributed to Sotheby’s work for the (Red) organization – founded by U2’s Bono – to organize three charity auctions, raising nearly $100 Million dollars to fight the AIDS epidemic – and setting artist’s records at auction along the way.
In recognition of Molly’s diligent pursuit of excellence, the Alumni Council has named her this year’s recipient of the Young Alumni Award.
It is truly an honor to be back here with you all today – 20 years after my graduation. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago… but in other ways it feels like just yesterday I was speaking to my classmates at a Monday morning assembly or jumping on the Crew bus for practice down at Boathouse Row.
I am deeply touched Shipley has recognized me with the Young Alumni Award. I entered Shipley as a Sophomore after my family moved to the Mainline from the Chicago area. Let me be clear – my early days at Shipley were far from easy. In addition to being the new girl in school, I struggled to adjust to the academic rigor Shipley demanded. I love to tell the story that after being a “straight A student” at my former school, my first two graded tests at Shipley were Ds. Yes, you heard me right: Ds. I was not quite prepared for such a rude awakening… but even more so, I was humbled by the tremendous support and encouragement displayed by my Shipley teachers. They truly believed in me – and that changed everything. Many office hours later I emerged a stronger, more confident version of myself. I found my voice in the classroom and in my writing abilities. I was brave enough to take up new sports like volleyball and crew and I even tried out for the spring musical. By my Senior year I was on student council as SOS chair, was a Varsity athlete and sang a capella with the Madrigals. Most importantly, I made lifelong friends at Shipley who have been with me through thick and thin over the years.
There is no doubt my Shipley years were some of the best preparation I could have had for my professional endeavors. At Sotheby’s, the bar is set high: the clientele is sophisticated and discerning, the artwork handled is within the cannon of art history, and the events offered demand flawless execution.
Like my early days at Shipley, my career has not always been easy – I have navigated difficult bosses and demanding CEOs, a financial crisis which resulted in cutting staff and resources, and an evolving art market confronting change, disruptive technology, new business models and customers.
I have met the challenges presented by bringing energy and humility to the table, calm and order to chaos, vision and clarity to the unknown and, in true Shipley spirit, courage for the deed and grace for the doing. The Shipley motto continues to be an anchor for me personally and professionally.
I want to circle back to the Shipley teachers and community for a moment. When I reflect on those early weeks at Shipley, I don’t remember being scared I wasn’t going to make friends or find my place within the school, I remember teachers like Mrs. Wompler, Mr. Wrangham, Mrs. Jaffee and Mr. Berberian routing for me – encouraging me to keep going. I can close my eyes and see them before me – cheering in the “front row.” A few years later I was lucky enough to find the same connection with my college advisor at Colgate and then again with my first boss who offered me the job at Sotheby’s 18 years ago.
So I ask you all – who is in your front row? Take stock of those people who challenge and support you no matter what. Visualize them sitting in your front row. The people in those seats are there for you – and there will be others you haven’t even met yet who will one day grab a seat to cheer you on through the good times and bad. So thank you Shipley for being there for me 20+ years ago – and for being here for me today through the recognition of this award. And a special thank you to my parents who supported my Shipley education, my brother and fellow alum, and my husband and two daughters all of whom I am lucky enough to have with me here today.