Sherrill Links Houston Past Success to City and UH Future Success

Published on August 15, 2008
Forefront: Bill Sherrill has been a vital part of Houston's history and future.

Forefront: Bill Sherrill has been a vital part of Houston’s history and future.

William Sherrill (’50), has led a distinguished career spanning several decades. Sherrill was twice appointed as a Governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, was Director of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), President of Associates Corporation of North America, and Director of Gulf and Western Industries, Inc. Sherrill has lead many entrepreneurial efforts, from start-ups to turnarounds, in fields as diverse as real estate development, electronics, manufacturing, banking, and finance.

Early in his professional life, Sherrill worked for Judge Roy Hofheinz in city government, then followed the colorful civic leader into the private sector. As the go-to guy for potential Hofheinz projects, Sherrill’s job entailed evaluating the profitability potential for visionary and sometimes outlandish concepts. “People were always bringing him ideas, lots of crazy ideas,” Sherrill recalls.

One of them was an audacious proposal to build Houston’s landmark baseball stadium, an idea hatched in the ‘60s. Hofheinz’s larger than life presence and string of successful ventures made the possibility of what he was proposing – the world’s first multi-purpose, domed stadium — seem plausible to Sherrill.

“I had seen him do such remarkable things,” Sherrill says. “If anyone but Hofheinz had said it, I would have discounted it.”

Sherrill couldn’t support the first dome proposal he examined, which he believed wouldn’t have been profitable. But Hofheinz reconfigured things, proposing that Harris County own the building. Of course, the deal went through – after several bond issues, lawsuits and other delays. Sherrill admits he was way off in his projections for attendance and income from tours of what was then promoted as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”

With its dome, air conditioning and futuristic architecture, the Dome attracted many more female fans than Sherrill first anticipated, and $1 tours of the building conducted during its first two years of operation paid for its rent over that time frame, he says.

After being a part of the heady hoopla surrounding the opening of the Astrodome, which transformed baseball in subtropical Houston and beyond, Sherrill’s career took off, and he left Houston. But he never forgot the experience of working for Hofheinz, who he calls “a genuine genius, with a lightning fast mind.”

Over the years, the Dome became Houston’s hotspot, not only for baseball, but for numerous other memorable occasions in the city’s history. Many UH basketball fans will never forget being among the 52,000 who watched Elvin Hayes lead the Cougars to their 1968 victory over UCLA.

Now, as another UH alum heads up the group that will decide the future of the Astrodome (and the Reliant Park complex) Sherrill hopes that the Dome’s stature as an iconic piece of Houston’s history is secure. “I hope they will come up with a feasible plan to preserve it. It would be a crime not to,” Sherrill says. “You know, for a while, this city has been so drawn to new-ness we didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about our heritage and architectural features. More and more we’ve become concerned about our heritage and are doing what is necessary to protect it.”

The city has also grown in its appreciation for UH, and its significance to Houston, he says, as evidenced by the serendipity of having another UH alum named to a key decision-making role related to what may be the single-most recognizable structure in the city.

“UH is exceedingly important to the city and the city is beginning to recognize that more and more,” Sherrill says.

More on Bill Sherrill:

  • Sherrill founded the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (formerly the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bauer College), last year rated the #2 college program for entrepreneurship in the country in 1991. In 1994, he was named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year (Educator) in recognition of the excellence of the CEI model.
  • He has held numerous offices with the Alumni Association, and has been a member of the Bauer College Advisory Council under three Deans, including current Dean Arthur Warga.
  • Sherrill was president of his freshman, junior and senior classes, and was president of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity his sophomore year, the year his Pledge Class obtained the first live Cougar mascot.

By Julie Bonnin

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the Bauer College of Business

The C.T. Bauer College of Business has been in operation for more than 60 years at the University of Houston main campus. Through its five academic departments, the college offers a full-range of undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in business. The Bauer College is fully accredited by the AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In August 2000, Houston business leader and philanthropist Charles T. (Ted) Bauer endowed the College of Business with a $40 million gift. In recognition of his generosity, the college was renamed the C.T. Bauer College of Business.

Posted Under: Alumni

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