Fall 2017

Gratitude for Where it All Began

A loyal alumnus supports a ground-floor facelift.

By Elizabeth Gehrman

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William T. Sherman, D62, is contributing to the dental school's lobby renovation. Photo: Alonso Nichols

William T. Sherman, D62, has always followed his own path in life.

Since eighth or ninth grade, he knew he wanted to be a dentist. “Being a doctor would be nice,” he recalled thinking, “but I didn’t want to make house calls, so being a dentist seemed the logical thing to do.”

And Sherman knew exactly where he was meant to learn his craft. “My father went to Duke and he wanted me to go to Duke so badly he could taste it,” he said. “I said, ‘My goal is to go to Tufts, Dad.’ It had the reputation of being the most elite dental school — the best in the country, if not the whole world.” So, after finishing his undergraduate degree at the niversity of Connecticut, off he went to Massachusetts.

Sherman has lived an amazing life. After graduating from Tufts, he entered the U.S. Air Force, where he learned to fly, and served for six years as a captain in the Air Force dental service. He’s also a commercial pilot who holds instrument and multiengine ratings. He’s flown his dream plane, the P-51 Mustang, and still flies his own Cessna Cardinal, including to Nantucket where he bought a “little Nantucket dollhouse” near the center of town in 1982. The home has appreciated a great deal since then. “That doesn’t mean I was so smart,” Sherman said. “At Tufts they taught us to make a habit of hanging around people who are smart and business-conscious to try to emulate what those people do—I just know how to copy.”

But Sherman is being modest, of course. He served 12 years as a visiting clinical professor at UConn’s School of Dental Medicine, and for many years was the leader of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity in Connecticut, and also served as its international regent, director and trustee. And he’s a loving family man, stepfather to his wife Samantha’s two grown children. He and Samantha now reside in The Villages, Florida, about 45 miles from Orlando, where he started the UConn Sports Club, which has more than 300 members.

Sherman knew he wanted to do what he could for the schools that had given him so much. “I feel that Tufts gave me the opportunity to have the good life I’ve had,” he said. “And as I get older I realize how much more meaningful being a Tufts grad is. It’s special.”

In the 1990s, Sherman became a major donor to UConn to help build an athletic facility named after his father, the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex, and has continued giving to the school in the years since. But then the time came to turn his sense of gratitude to Tufts. “They treated us like gold at the 50th reunion and I was unusually impressed with how nice Tufts had been,” he said. So not long before his 55th reunion, he and Dean Huw Thomas had lunch in Hartford. “I said I wanted to do something for Tufts,” said Sherman, who has also included the school in his estate planning, “and I pulled a check for $100,000 out of my pocket and handed it to him.”

“He’s an amazingly devoted alumnus,” Thomas said. “He is tremendously grateful for the education he received here at Tufts, and that it made him into a successful and capable general practitioner.”

Sherman’s gift will go toward an exciting new project slated to break ground later this winter. The lobby of the dental school at One Kneeland Street has needed an upgrade for years. “It’s cramped and doesn’t really fulfill the functions we need it to,” Thomas said. Others have been less charitable, likening navigating the space at peak times to waiting on a crowded subway platform. “Certain days of the week,” said Mark Gonthier, executive associate dean, “the elevator line and the check-in for patients can literally run out the door.”

Serendipity intervened when the bank renting space on the ground floor of One Kneeland broke its lease in 2016. That, coupled with generous gifts like Bill Sherman’s, are allowing the school to undertake an extensive renovation that will increase the size of the lobby and mezzanine by more than 60 percent, to a total of about 5,250 square feet; add a fifth elevator; install better signs and improve traffic flow; and consolidate patient services including insurance sign-up and educational counseling.

Though the school is using reserve funds to pay for a large portion of the lobby renovation, “gifts from alumni like Bill have really allowed us to take it to the level of finish we want it to have,” Thomas said. In addition to Sherman’s gift, the lobby project has also received support from Peter Delli Colli, A69, D73; Mark Hirsh, DG68, J97P, A04P, AG00P and Jane Hirsh, J97P, A04P, AG00P; Warren Lee, DI87, D15P, DG18P and Sophia Lee, D15P, DG18P; The Dr. Edward Becker, D34, H94, Alumni Center Endowment and an anonymous donor.

“Not only will this renovation look beautiful and make it easier for faculty, staff and students to get around,” Thomas said, “but it will also go a long way to making the school a more patient-friendly, patient-welcoming environment. Because that’s really what it’s
all about.”

If you would like more information about the lobby renovation and how to get involved, contact Betty Ann Kearney, senior director of dental development and alumni relations, at 617-636-2783, or elizabeth.kearney@tufts.edu.

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