English, physical therapy staff to address Wingate grads

WINGATE – More than 260 students will cross the commencement stage Dec. 9 at Wingate University. 

They’ll walk away with advice and encouragement from two faculty members with a combined 64 years of higher education experience.

John Sykes, a professor in the English department, and Karen Friel, director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, were nominated by their colleagues for the honor of addressing the class of 2023.

Sykes and Friel will share their wisdom during commencement ceremonies set for 9 a.m. Dec. 9 inside Cuddy Arena. 

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests are advised to arrive early. Overflow seating will be in Austin Auditorium, with a livestream showing the ceremony. 


John Sykes

Sykes has taught at Wingate since 1989. 

As a teenager living in Wake Forest, he became friends with the children of professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and found himself drawn to academic life. 

Although he has worked at a pickle plant, a fence company and a JC Penney warehouse and served as an interim minister, Sykes says he’s never strayed far from the classroom, having managed to start every fall since 1959 as a student or teacher. 

He has degrees from Wake Forest University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Virginia. 

Since 1989 he has worked at Wingate, where he has won the Hazel Corts Teaching Award and serves as the Mary and Harry Brown Professor of English and Religion.


Karen Friel

Friel arrived at Wingate in 2019. 

She has led the Doctor of Physical Therapy program through a successful reaccreditation and a major curricular revision, has initiated pro bono physical therapy services, and has begun offering international clinical education rotations for students. 

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Friel graduated from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of Indianapolis. 

She has been appointed to leadership offices in professional organizations at the state and national levels and is an onsite visitor for the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Before her current role, Friel chaired the Department of Physical Therapy at New York Institute of Technology. 

Her scholarly work includes studies related to pedagogy and student wellness, biomechanics and rehabilitation after lower-limb amputation.

The Charlotte Weekly