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Million-dollar gift establishes endowed chair in entrepreneurship at NMSU

  • By Amanda Bradford
  • 575-646-3223
  • ambradfo@nmsu.edu
  • Oct 25, 2013
Couple poses for photo.

Business executive and New Mexico State University alumnus Bill Sheriff has been very busy since his retirement in February. He's juggled a bit of consulting at the company he ran for many years, Brookdale Senior Living, with travel around the Southwest, keeping up with his eight grandchildren and spending a little time on his golf game.

But he and his wife, Sharon, were not too busy to come back to their hometown of Las Cruces to celebrate NMSU's 2013 Homecoming - and they brought with them a big announcement: a $1.1 million gift to the College of Business to establish an endowed chair in entrepreneurship and a scholarship for business students.

The Bill and Sharon Sheriff Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, funded through a gift of stock valued at more than $1 million, aims to attract and reward faculty who will provide leadership and expertise in cultivating a spirit of entrepreneurship in New Mexico and developing resources that will advance that goal in the state and region. The faculty member awarded the chair will also collaborate with NMSU's Arrowhead Center, which is an engine for sustainable economic development and entrepreneurship.

Bill Sheriff said this is an important mission for the College of Business.

"In today's world and the world of the future, this is what it takes to prepare tomorrow's leaders for life and the entrepreneurial world," he said. "The world continues to change at a faster and faster pace. We have to prepare people to deal with that successfully. I believe strongly in the free enterprise system and the entrepreneurial aspect is an important part of that."

When Sheriff sat down with NMSU President Garrey Carruthers, who was then dean of the College of Business, they explored the best way to use the funds to maximize what the university is trying to accomplish in terms of the future of entrepreneurship and economic development in the state.

"I think there's something special going on with the College of Business," Sheriff said. "We think we're contributing to something that's very important to the school, this area and the state."

Along with the endowed chair - the fifth in the College of Business - the Sheriffs have established a scholarship for eligible business majors with an additional gift of more than $60,000.

Sharon Sheriff said she hopes the funds will help more students complete their degrees and succeed after college.

"Money becomes an important thing in where you go to school and what you do, and to be able to help some of the students, even in a small way, with some money to finish their education - that's important," she said.

In 2011, the Sheriffs also established a scholarship in their name with NMSU mentor and former special events director Barbara Hubbard.

Carruthers praised the Sheriffs' commitment to education and to Bill's alma mater.

"Bill and Sharon Sheriff are outstanding supporters of New Mexico State University and have demonstrated their commitment to education for many years," Carruthers said. "This chair in entrepreneurship and the scholarship will provide new opportunities for our students to make educational discoveries and enhance their academic experience."

Sheriff's executive management career spans nearly five decades. He served most recently for six years as chief executive officer of Brookdale Senior Living, the nation's largest senior living company. He had served as chairman and CEO of American Retirement Corporation for 22 years prior to its 2006 merger with Brookdale.

Sheriff got his start in management in his family's truck stop business, headquartered in Las Cruces, after completing his bachelor's of science in mathematics at NMSU in 1965. He was president and CEO of that business after his father's death for nine years before selling the company to Ryder System, where he was president of the Truckstops Division for 11 years.

Bill Sheriff's support of higher education includes service on the Board of Trustees of Belmont University and the Harvard Medical School Health Care Policy Advisory Council. He is a member of the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors and received an honorary doctorate from NMSU in 2012.

Sharon Sheriff has also been involved as a volunteer in education for more than 30 years, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of a private prep school in Nashville and volunteers with Friends of the Arts at Belmont University.

The Sheriffs have been married for more than 50 years, having met as students at Las Cruces High School. They reside in Nashville and have three children and eight grandchildren