By Dave Scheiber
When Ron Sherman retired in 2014 from the institution that forever changed his life, he was practically an institution himself.
For 35 years, Sherman's gregarious, down-to-earth style and passion for the University of South Florida were hallmarks of his long and successful tenure in USF Advancement. Here was a man whose popularity and people skills inspired the nickname of "Mr. Mayor," and whose behind-the-scenes fundraising prowess as development director for the USF Alumni Association left an indelible mark on the university.
In fact, in a display of their affection and respect, more than 200 individual donors – comprised of friends and colleagues – surprised him at his retirement party with an amazing parting gift: some $50,000 they had raised. The money was to help Sherman fulfill a personal goal and start a scholarship in his name.
The result was the creation of the Ron A. Sherman Endowed Scholarship, awarded in each of the last two academic years to a junior or senior whose active involvement has made a positive mark on the USF Community. "I wanted to create a scholarship that helps a deserving student limit the number of hours they might have to work in a part-time job, give them more time to focus on their studies," he says. "And I want to convey to them that somebody believes in them."
Sherman also wanted to increase his $50,000 gift, allowing his scholarship to have as big an impact as possible. So he turned to a seasoned financial planner, hiring veteran investments advisor Tori Boswell, a graduate of USF's MBA program, a Raymond James Financial investment specialist – and a longtime family friend. "When I was looking at my estate after I retired, and thinking about my scholarship, I turned to Tori," he explains. "I like to be Bulls-centric, but beyond being a USF grad and a friend, she's very wise with investments. And I told her, 'I'd like to leave a legacy on top of the initial amount raised.' "
Specifically, he wanted to explore how the investment could one day benefit USF, so he and Boswell paid a visit to USF's assistant vice president of gift planning, Marion Yongue, who was a USF student in the late 1980s and early '90s when he first met Sherman. Yongue explained the ins-and-outs of making a deferred gift.
Meanwhile, Boswell structured the investment in a way that it would keep the scholarship fund growing. She knew that because he was 66 years old, he was closing in on the mandatory age of 70-and-a-half to take out required minimum distributions from retirement funds – such as IRAs and tax-deferred investments. "What you can do now is forecast the growth of those accounts and decide how you want to invest that money when the time comes," Boswell explains.
Sherman already had set up his bank account to have a certain amount of money sent automatically to the initial scholarship fund of $50,000 (now more than $57,000) on the first of each month. The next step involved talking to Boswell about how to build up his investments over the next five years. "The goal is for Tori to grow that investment so that when I'm 70-and-a-half, the principle will stay intact but the earnings – instead of coming to me – will go tax-free to the scholarship. The plan is that every year after that a good amount will go to the fund, and put it well over $100,000 in a short period of time."
Sherman feels a keen sense of pride in his students: Giselle Irio and Alexis Marquez, with many more to come. It makes him think of the lessons he learned from donors he connected to USF.
"A lot of them taught me that when you give you get," he says. "You don't give to get, but when you give, good things happen for you. I really believe that. The giving world is a great place to be."
Read more about Ron Sherman's life and USF career