Asia Society Mourns Passing of Washington SyCip

Bennet Cobliner

NEW YORK, October 8, 2017 — Asia Society mourns the loss of a longtime friend, supporter, and true global bridge-builder: Washington SyCip.

The tributes to this great man will include the term "business icon" — and that he was — but we knew him also as a warm, witty, interesting, and always engaging man. Whether the subject was business or foreign policy, the U.S.-Philippine relationship or broader trends across the Asia Pacific, Wash brought keen intelligence and insight and he did so in ways that made others sit up and take note.

Wash was the founder of the iconic Sycip Gorres Velayo & Company (SGV), which grew into the largest professional services firm in the Philippines, and the Asian Institute of Management, a renowned business school in Manila. A long-time supporter and active advisor to Asia Society, he was one of our first trustees from Asia, founded the organization’s Philippines Center in Manila in 1999, and served as an honorary life trustee of Asia Society.

For decades he worked to improve relations and understanding between the people of his country and the rest of the world, building global bridges in the manner that our founders at the Asia Society had in mind when the institution was born.

Small in stature, Wash SyCip was a giant among men. The Philippines has lost a great champion; the Asia Society has lost a dear friend. He will be greatly missed.

Related Links
Business icon Washington SyCip dies at 96 [Rappler]

Washington SyCip accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award at Asia Society's 2012 Awards Dinner. (4 min., 9 sec.):

Message from Asia Society Philippines:

There are no words worthy to express the sadness we feel at the loss of Washington SyCip, our founding chair and trustee emeritus of the global Asia Society.

Mr. SyCip lived a purpose-driven life that will continue to inspire us beyond his passing. He cared deeply about the Philippines and made immeasurable contributions towards its success through his own business enterprise, SGV, the first multi-national Filipino company, and to the multitudes of non-profit organizations he was involved in.

His wisdom, energy, and generous support for Asia Society, Council on Foreign Relations, Asia Business Council, Asian Institute of Management, Columbia University, Insead, Syngergia, UP Singing Ambassadors, CARD MRI, to name several he spoke often about, are a glimmer into the breadth of his deep determination to contribute to a better Philippines and more equitable world.

Aside from the many corporate boards he sat on, Mr. SyCip will always be remembered as the consummate and unparalleled mediator of conflict between family members and corporate shareholders and competitors, made possible by trust in his sense of fairness and equanimity with which he helped hurdle issues.

Most of all he was an amazing loyal friend. He was always there when needed. He remembered what was important often in context of history. His friends here and abroad love him on top of respect him. We shall stay worthy of that friendship by keeping the impact he made on the world, on the Philippines and the United States, on our own lives, forever alive in the caverns of our memories.

Thank you Washington SyCip. We will truly miss you.

Asia Society Co-Chair Henrietta H. Fore:

He was so smart, wise, curious and engaged. He mentored hundreds of us across the US and Asia. He will be deeply and widely missed!

Asia Society Philippines Executive Director Suyin Liu Lee:

You hear of stories of great men but it is truly humbling and an honor to have worked with one of them. Mr. SyCip’s last directives to me for Asia Society Philippines were:

1. Help reduce poverty.

2. Work with Filipino companies.

He believed in the greatness of the Filipino. He led by example and I hope we can collectively continue his legacy and make our country as great a he believed it to be.

Thank you, sir.