Sidney R. Knafel


A portrait photo of Sidney Knafel

Photo by Richard Howard

The entire Wellesley community lost a great friend on Dec. 6, 2021, when Trustee Emeritus Sid Knafel died at home in Manhattan. Many of us had the privilege and pleasure of a personal friendship with Sid, and we all benefit from Sid’s vision and generosity.

Sid lived what most people desire—a whole life. The fullness of that life is directly reflected in the diversity and creativity of his philanthropy. He enjoyed an extraordinarily successful business career and joyfully gave of his time, energy, outstanding intellect, and resources to benefit others. He traveled, enjoyed the arts, and walked in the woods. He surrounded himself with generations of family and friends. He was urbane and debonair … and totally focused on the person in front of him.

Sid was a collector of objects as well as friends. He created an important collection of atlases, maps, and globes, which is used for student learning at Phillips Academy Andover. He was the leading American collector of 16th–18th-century French faience. A portion of this collection was exhibited at the Frick Collection in 2019 and will become a permanent part of the museum’s holdings.

Education was a particular passion of Sid’s, as evidenced by his service and support of his alma maters, Phillips Academy Andover and Harvard, and his many contributions at Wellesley. Sid’s involvement at the College began alongside his first wife, Susan Rappaport Knafel ’52. In addition to supporting financial aid and capital projects, Susie and Sid created a traveling fellowship and scholarship funds for foreign study.

After Susie’s death in 1998, Sid’s commitment to Wellesley continued. He joined the board of trustees in 1999 and served for 15 years, seven as vice chair. His wisdom, insight, and creativity were valued by all. Throughout this time, he continued his generous support of the priorities of the College, creating five named assistant professorships and student internships, as well as supporting important capital projects. As he completed his service on the board in 2014, Sid created the Wellesley College Board of Trustees Endowed Fund.

In 2003, Sid married Londa Weisman. Londa quickly became part of the Wellesley family and was offered honorary membership in the classes of several of Sid’s fellow trustees. Londa embraced Sid’s devotion to the College with a commitment and creativity to match his own. Together they provided the vision and resources for the restoration of 99 Pond Road.

In the spring, when Sid’s gift of daffodils bloom on Weaver Hill, our hearts will “with pleasure fill” at the memory of his well-lived life and his lasting impact on so many people and places.

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