Dr. Bill Sherman arrived as a student on the Baylor University campus in the fall of 1950. Known as “Billy Don” to Baylor friends, he was following in the footsteps of his brother, Cecil, and his sister, Ruth. He was pursuing his dream of playing college football as well, having been offered a scholarship the previous spring by Coach George Sauer.
Sherman also had the good fortune of meeting Houston native Veta Cole at Baylor—whom he describes as “my lifelong companion.” The two were married in August 1953, a few months after Veta had earned her Baylor degree. After Bill graduated in 1954 and earned a master of divinity and a doctor of theology from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, a long and remarkable career in the ministry ensued.
Almost 70 years since becoming Baylor students, Bill and Veta Sherman’s love for their alma mater still burns as brightly as it did during their years on campus. In fact, they have been to every Baylor Homecoming since 1949—traveling from significant distances—except for the year when one of their sons was receiving treatment for cancer in Houston.
“We are unwavering in our love for and support of Baylor,” Veta said.
Though neither Bill nor Veta attended Truett Seminary, this love and support of Baylor has been particularly embodied in their generosity toward the Seminary.
Bill Sherman’s lengthy personal history with Baylor and his long perspective on traditional Baptist values are complemented by how he approaches the future—always taking the long view when weighing present-day decisions.
He took that approach when he moved from Oklahoma to become pastor of Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville in 1968—a pastorate he would hold for 30 years. He soon began taking a stand for racial equality and other social issues, believing our nation’s future strength depended on greater opportunity for people from all backgrounds.
More generally, the Sherman family has taken the long view when it comes to supporting Baylor. Several years ago—with sources including more than 20 church members providing funds—they established the Bill and Veta Sherman/George W. Truett Theological Seminary Endowed Scholarship Fund. This endowed scholarship fund is now ensuring that current and future generations of Christian leaders will be able to obtain the distinctive education provided by Truett Seminary.
“Truett Seminary is producing men and women who are making a tremendous difference in the Kingdom of God and preserving our traditional, Baptist values,” Bill said. “It’s very important for Truett to continue being strong and to serve as a beacon for the Christian faith and Baptist denomination.”
The Shermans’ daughter, Dr. Deb Sherman, and her husband, Tim Siktberg, were instrumental in directing the family’s philanthropic support to Truett. Their family foundation has been the primary donor to the scholarship fund honoring her parents. An oculoplastic surgeon in Nashville, Deb and her husband also are serving on Truett Seminary’s recently formed Board of Advocates.
“Financial support is one of the main lifelines for Truett Seminary. True Baptists realize this,” Deb Sherman said. “That is one of the main reasons we initiated the scholarship honoring my parents, as they have benefited from a strong education at Baylor and they believe, live, and teach the ideals that are taught at Truett.”
Since 2001, Bill Sherman has served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairview, located just outside Nashville and near the Shermans’ longtime home in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood. Now in his mid-80s, he still shows no signs of slowing down in his Kingdom-building work.
Bill has been president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and served on the governing boards of Belmont University, the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, Christian Life Commission, and Southern Baptist Foundation. He was instrumental in the founding of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1991. Throughout his ministry, he and Veta have also worked abroad with volunteer missions to countries ranging from Jamaica and Brazil to Russia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Bill credits Baylor with providing the foundation for his career. “The thing about Baylor is that you get a degree in life, not just an academic degree,” he said. “Veta and I believe Baylor had the most profound Christian impression on our lives. We love Baylor because it embodies the ideals that we’ve built our lives around.”
Truett Seminary is immensely grateful to the Sherman family for the generosity that has flowed from their love of Baylor to the Seminary community and that will impact Truett students for years to come.