Shermans leave lasting legacy through scholarship for Appalachian students

Published: February 23, 2021 Author: Staff reports

During his tenure as dean of the College of Business, Hugh Sherman witnessed firsthand the profound impact a college education could have on students. He also saw how high levels of poverty and low economic development in Southeast Ohio were factors that limited the opportunities for area youth.

That need was the driving force that led Sherman and his wife, Cynthia (better known as Nikki), to develop The Cynthia and Hugh Sherman Scholarship, with a preference that the funding should be given to students who live in Ohio’s Appalachian counties.  

“Having lived and worked in this region for the last 25 years, we believe it is important to support young and talented Appalachians who lack the financial resources to attend college,” Hugh Sherman said.

Nikki Sherman added, “The scholarship gives them the opportunity to get an excellent education and improve their quality of life.”

The Cynthia and Hugh Sherman Scholarship totals $160,000, with over $100,000 of that total coming from gift commitments and the rest provided through The OHIO Match™, an undergraduate scholarship investment program where the University matches all gifts 50 cents on the dollar. This program makes it possible for donor gifts like the Shermans’ to go further in supporting students.  

Hugh Sherman joined the college as an assistant professor in 1995 and served as dean for 13 years before stepping down from the role in January. During his time with the college, he had a huge impact on the college’s students and alumni.

A group of those alumni and friends were inspired by the Shermans’ generosity in creating the scholarship. They offered their own matching gifts—an equal one-to-one match up to $30,000—to further increase the scholarship’s reach. The $30,000 match was fulfilled right at the start of fundraising efforts.   

The alumni and friends who committed to the $30,000 matching gift represented five decades of OHIO graduates:

  • Jim Frey, BBA ’69
  • Bill, BBA ’71, and Barb Axline
  • Karen, BBA ’81, and Jim Bailey
  • Chris, BBA ’99, and JoAnne Bellamy, BBA ’99
  • Anna Stavreska, MBA ’03, and Nate Brinkley, MBA/MSA ’04
  • Larry and Lisa McHale

Karen Bailey wanted to participate because of her own experience as the first in her family to attend college.

“I was a first-generation college graduate in my family and understand the importance of creating access for other generations to earn a college degree. I applaud Nikki and Hugh Sherman’s civic leadership by setting up their scholarship so students in one of the lowest income per capita regions in the United States get a chance to advance their education,” Bailey said.  

Jim Frey decided to donate to the scholarship because he wanted to honor Hugh Sherman and support a cause that was important to the former dean. Frey has known Hugh and Nikki Sherman since 2013 and marvels at their humbleness and values their friendship immensely.

"Hugh is an inspiring leader who accomplished so much during his time as dean through his vision for the college. This scholarship was his and Nikki’s way of supporting the youth in Appalachia and helping them get access to the same opportunities that others have," Frey said. "They are changing lives by offering these students the benefit of a college education." 

The scholarship is open for additional contributions. To make a gift, send a check payable to The Ohio University Foundation, with “Cynthia and Hugh Sherman Scholarship” in the memo line, to The Ohio University Foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, OH 45701.

Or, make a gift directly to the scholarship online through the University’s giving website. For information, contact Director of Development Ryan O’Connor at or 740.593.0645.