Congratulations to Sylvia Neil, Lyric Opera’s first female board chair
University of Chicago law lecturer Sylvia Neil has been named board chair of Lyric Opera of Chicago. She is the first woman to hold the post.
The board of directors elected Neil to the post at its meeting early this month. She joined the board in May of 2011 and for the past year has served as board chair-elect, a new position at the organization.
Neil succeeds David Ormesher, who becomes chair of the executive committee, and who was board chair during Lyric’s 2018 musicians’ strike. Lester Crown, who has been executive committee chair for 30 years, becomes executive committee chair emeritus. In the release announcing Neil’s appointment, Lyric management says that these events signify a “new plan of succession” for Lyric board chairs.
“Lyric is thrilled to welcome Sylvia as our new board chair,” said Lyric General Director Anthony Freud in the release. He went on to say that Neil has proved a “tremendous leader” for the organization, including establishing Lyric’s Heroes’ Fund, which has raised more than $10 million to offset the financial damages wrought by the pandemic.
“Sylvia’s background and commitment to equity and the arts come at a critical juncture for Lyric,” he said. “Her work will be challenging and I am confident in her abilities to find smart solutions to complex issues.”
In accepting the post, Neil said she was honored to be the first woman chair at Lyric, a company that has had two female general directors—Carol Fox and Ardis Krainik. “These are the folks that light my path forward,” Neil said.
Neil, former associate dean at the University of Chicago Law School, has also been an adjunct professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law and taught at DePaul School of Law and Roosevelt University.
She and her husband, Dan Fischel, have sponsored a number of Lyric productions, including Elektra, Madame Butterfly, and The Marriage of Figaro. The two organized and sponsored the Heroes’ Fund after Lyric announced it would cancel its 2020 Ring cycle due to the pandemic.
Lyric Opera of Chicago is not the first major Chicago arts organization to have a female board chair. Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, Joffrey Ballet, and the Field Museum have all had female board chairs.
-Lisa Bertagnoli, Crain’s
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