History of the Library: Gerald R. Sherratt the Man

A bust of the late Gerald SherrattYou may have noticed students walking through the library, looking around furtively, and then quickly rubbing the head of the bust of Gerald Sherratt and walking away. When the library first opened, students decided that rubbing the head of such a wise man would surely help with exams, so it became a tradition to give former President Sherratt a "noogie" before difficult tests or assignments. While some may find it somewhat disrespectful, President Sherratt was very aware of the tradition and found it a charming and fitting way for him to continue to contribute to campus.

Gerald R. Sherratt, president emeritus of Southern Utah University and former two-term mayor of Cedar City, Utah, was born Nov. 6, 1931 in Los Angeles, Calif., to Lowell and Genevieve Lamb Sherratt. He passed away on July 8, 2016. Jerry attended public schools in Los Angeles, Nevada, and Cedar City, where he served as mayor of Teen Town in 1948 and graduated from Cedar High the following year as "Boy of the Year."

Known for his imagination, leadership, artistic skills and unfailing sense of humor, Jerry attended the Branch Agricultural College (now Southern Utah University) and received an associate degree in 1951, transferred to Utah State University where he earned bachelor's and master's degree in educational fields, and completed his Ph.D. degree in administration of higher education at Michigan State University in 1975.

Jerry served three years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in command of a basic training squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. His early years in collegiate and connected administration, beginning in 1958, took him to USU, then Lexington, Va., where he served as the assistant executive director of Sigma Nu international fraternity and as the award-winning editor of The Delta magazine. In 1964, he became staff associate at the University of Utah, and in 1965 returned to USU as director of student recruitment and the entertainment bureau, then as assistant to President Daryl Chase, director of alumni relations, and director of the Development Fund. He was the founder of the Robins Awards recognition program and obtained funding for several key campus facilities, while directing Commencement for many years. He subsequently served as assistant to USU President Glen Taggart, who elevated him to vice president for university relations, dean of summer quarter, and associate professor of education. At USU he founded the Festival of the American West and authored the festival's centerpiece historical pageant, "The West: America's Odyssey," presented by the university each summer for 25 years.

In December 1981, Jerry was named the 13th president of Southern Utah State College and was to serve that institution for 15 and a half years, presiding over a tripling of enrollment, the school earning university status, and of a major building program, including the completion of the Randall Lunt Jones Theatre, the Science Center, the Hunter Conference Center, the Sherratt Library, the student union building, the Sharwan Smith Center, the Centrum special events center, the Eccles Coliseum, the Jay Dee Harris and Alice C. Harris athletic center, and a new president's residence, which was first occupied after his retirement. Funding was also obtained for architectural planning of the J. L. Sorenson P.E. Building. A number of major renovations and additions also took place.

The elevation of the university's academic offerings during the period culminated in the school's selection among 20 American colleges and universities as an "exemplar of undergraduate education." The university also established the Center for Rural Life, a weekly convocation series was instituted, a significant expansion of the library's offerings occurred, and the university began foreign exchange educational programs.

In athletics, he moved the Thunderbirds from NAIA status to Division I of the NCAA, greatly expanded facilities, and in 1985, Sherratt founded the Utah Summer Games.

At the conclusion of his administration, which coincided with the university's 100th anniversary, Dr. Sherratt presided over a year-long celebration that included the dedication of The Centurion, a monument to the life of the mind with statues of 12 prominent intellectual figures of western history, and a Centennial Convocation with participation of such luminaries as former President George H. W. Bush, Gov. Michael 0. Leavitt and LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, as well as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. At that time, SUU's new library was named in his honor.

Dr. Sherratt spent a year as the chief executive officer of the Tuacahn Center for the Arts, Ivins, Utah, and established one of the first charter schools in Utah, the Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts. Concurrently, he founded and led the Cedar City Civic Club to improve the quality of life in his adopted hometown, and organized the city's gala Sesquicentennial Celebration.

In 2001, Sherratt was elected mayor of Cedar City and re-elected in 2005 with 82 percent of the vote. During his eight years as mayor, the population of Cedar City grew by 30 percent, 10 manufacturing firms established Cedar City plants, and new facilities were constructed, including a terminal for Cedar Regional Airport, the Library in the Park, the Festival Hall convention center, and funding was secured and architectural planning begun on a new Aquatic Center to be the largest in Utah. A number of new parks were developed including the Rotary Centennial Veterans Park with monuments to those who served from World War I to the Iraq/Afghanistan War. A rail extension was built to accommodate manufacturing in the city, and a redundant fiber optics line was built to bring broadband service to area businesses and manufacturers.

To promote tourism, the city adopted the "Festival City USA" motto and launched a number of new festivals to complement the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Utah Summer Games. These included SkyFest (a helium balloon festival), the Neil Simon Festival, the Cedar City Heritage and Livestock Festival, the Great American Stampede, and the American Children's Christmas Festival with its signature parade, the Storybook Cavalcade.

Dr. Sherratt served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, was a member and chair of the Salt Lake City Branch of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, and served as head of a dozen other constructive boards. Also, the list of his awards and honors is voluminous.