Bill Sherman ’65 Receives 2020 Snyder-Watt Leadership Award

by Jacqueline Kretz | Aug 31, 2020

Bill ShermanAs the first of 10 children and first-born son in his Irish Catholic family, Bill Sherman ’65 was supposed to become a priest. That turned out not to be his calling, but he remained committed to his faith and still managed to set an appropriate example for his nine siblings. In fact, most of them followed in his footsteps at Marian University, where Sherman ended up, basically, by accident.

After an academically intense three years at Saint Meinrad High School in southern Indiana, Sherman technically only needed two English classes to graduate from Sacred Heart High School in Indianapolis. He admits filling his schedule with cooking and typing classes, which made him more popular with the girls than with their boyfriends. But he also took some advanced math classes—just for fun. Then he scored high enough on the SAT to catch the attention of one of the Sisters.

“She asked me which college I wanted to send my test results to—Purdue, Indiana University, or Notre Dame, but I said I didn’t really know and that my dad didn’t even graduate from high school. So, she told me she would have them sent to Marian College. She had to tell me where that even was,” Sherman said.

A few months later, Sherman received an acceptance letter from Marian. He was shocked since he had not even applied. His dad, wise beyond his own tenth-grade education, told him ‘don’t be a fool’ and go get registered. That Sister—a Franciscan whose name he does not remember—knew exactly what she was doing, though she might not have predicted the recruitment of the entire Sherman family.

At Marian College, now Marian University, Sherman found another special Franciscan mentor in Sr. Mary Rose Stockton, OSF, Ph.D. She helped him discover his love for chemistry and impressed him with her no-nonsense style with some of the rowdier GI Bill students, who may have been a bit of a bad influence on Sherman.

In spite of that, Sherman excelled, double-majoring in biology and chemistry. And, as if 18-21 credit hours a semester weren’t enough, he spent his senior year taking classes all day while working nights at Eli Lilly and Company as a technician.

He had run out of money after his third year and knew it was up to him to stay in school. “Our parents promised only to get us through high school and made it clear we’d have to figure out how to pay for college on our own. Lucky for me, I like to stay busy,” said Sherman, who is awake and active from before 6 a.m. until midnight most days.

Staying busy is putting it lightly. Sherman quickly worked his way up at Lilly into analytical chemistry, then physical chemistry research, and then quality control and environmental science. Then he was sent to help close a plant in New Jersey and ended up being recruited by an engineering firm there.

A lot of people tried to talk him out of leaving Lilly, but Sherman ended up loving his 18 years out East. “I was totally awed by those skyscrapers in New York City and loved that the Pocono Mountains and the Atlantic coast were just a short drive away. There was just so much to see and do. I sometimes miss the pace and the action there, but I always find ways to stay busy and helpful,” Sherman said.

He also contributes his zest for life to a few very lucky moments in life, including a car accident with friends he hadn’t joined at the last minute and being late to a meeting because of traffic. That meeting happened to be in the basement of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Twenty-eight of his coworkers lost their lives that day. “I figure I’m here by the good grace of God, so I need to make my days count,” he said.

Since returning to Indianapolis, Sherman has done everything from teaching spin classes at the YMCA to leading multiple service organizations as president. He has held the positions of Grand Knight for Knights of Columbus Council 3660 and Faithful Navigator for the Bishop Chatard Assembly 254, where he is currently Commander of the 4th Degree Color Guard and has led opening flag ceremonies at all the Marian University home football games, rain or shine.

Sherman got back involved as an active Marian alumnus when asked to honor his favorite chemistry professor with a contribution to the Sr. Mary Rose Stockton Endowed Scholarship Fund. He jumped at the chance and has since rallied his siblings to establish the Sherman Family Endowed Scholarship. Now he’s actively seeking partners to help grow the Msgr. James M. Downey Council 3660 Seminarian Scholarship Fund for students in Marian’s San Damiano Scholars Program for Church Leadership and seminarians at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary.

Sherman is also a proud member of the Heritage of St. Francis Society (for honoring Marian with a planned gift) because he expects the impact of Marian University to last long into the future.

“What I love about Marian is that it’s real and vibrant. The students are very friendly and I love the staff, too. The Sisters started something great, and now the vision of President Elsener has me just awed. I’m proud to support Marian University, and I just like to help,” Sherman said.

Sherman has set an example for more than just his siblings. This recognition honors the leadership, generosity, and dedication he has invested in advancing the mission of Marian University.

The Snyder-Watt Leadership Award was created out of respect for the Herculean efforts that Jack R. Snyder and D. Anthony “Tony” Watt ’69, both Marian University Board of Trustees Chair Emeriti, generously invested in the Marian community.

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