At Nyack College, we’re observing Black History Month 2018 by presenting a series of short profiles written by members of our faculty and staff. The features pay homage to an African American individual who inspired and encouraged their faith journey. These personal experiences are illustrations that affirm the widely adopted practice of mentoring in our campus community. These are our four February features.
Name a person who had a significant influence on your faith journey.
Mrs. Margarite Syphax of Arlington, VA. Mrs. Syphax was my first mentor. I met her at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, when I lived in Fairfax County, VA.
Share how this individual helped shape your life as a Christian.
Mrs. Syphax’s home was like a second church, which was located down the block from Mt. Olive Baptist Church. The Syphax home was a popular gathering place for young adults who considered her a “second mom.” She was the ultimate Titus 2 woman. Her ears to listen and her shoulder to lean or cry on were always available, especially to young women—married and single—for encouragement, wise counsel and tough love. Ultimately, she pointed us to the Word of God. This pillar of the church and community, with her husband, owned W.T. Syphax Enterprises, a construction and property management company that received recognition from community organizations and in the African American-owned magazines, Ebony and Black Enterprise, as well as the Washington Post.
During one of the many gatherings in her home, Mrs. Syphax shared a book with me, “A Daily Guide to Miracles and Successful Living Through Seed-Faith,” where I first read a “Believer’s Prayer.” It is still on a bookshelf in my home today with her note on the title page: “Let the reading of this book change your life into a very positive joy. My prayers will continue on your behalf. Victory is yours!!” Her words and these words in the book arrested my attention: “The church is not the Savior; water baptism is not the Savior; philosophy is not the Savior; reformation is not the Savior, Jesus is the Savior.” This marked the beginning of my faith journey more than 30 years ago.
This reflection prompted me to search for Mrs. Syphax. I recalled that her husband had passed away after their 43-year union and that she later remarried. My treasure hunt for a photo she included in a Christmas card years ago was unearthed from a storage box. Her radiant smile drew me in once again. With information written on the back of the photo, my Google search began. Not only was her home number listed, but she answered the phone! To my delight, I learned that the now Mrs. Margarite Vallery would turn 95 years old on February 11. She is also looking forward to celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary in June. Just as glorious as the phone visit, and enjoying the familiar high energy in her voice, is hearing that she is still deeply in love with the Lord.
Director of Publications & Media Relations
Office of College Relations