Walter Harvey Sharron, Jr., retired Vice President for Development at Santa Fe College and a pioneering national advocate for community college resource development, died peacefully, surrounded by family, on Oct. 18, at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Jacksonville. He was 72.
Mr. Sharron had been battling idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung condition, for several years. In 2010, he became one of the oldest recipients of a lung transplant at the Mayo Clinic.
Mr. Sharron was born in Graceville, Fla., the only son of a farmer, Walter Harvey Sharron, and his wife Lessie Toole Sharron. After earning a degree from the University of Florida, he married Sandra Warren, his high school sweetheart, and set up permanent residence in Gainesville. He then attended the College of Law at the University of Florida and later earned a Masters degree in Education from the same institution. He also completed advanced studies at UF’s College of Education and at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Mr. Sharron was a member of Florida Blue Key, Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Alpha Theta Society of Professional Historians at the University of Florida.
He started his career in education at the University of Florida, where he worked in the Office of Academic Services and then served as Assistant to Dean of Men and Advisor to Fraternities.
In 1968, Mr. Sharron began his work at Santa Fe College, where he created the Office of Financial Aid and became its first Director. He then established the Office for Development, where he served as the country’s first community college Director, Dean and Vice President for Development for more than 40 years. He and his team secured millions of dollars through grants that were used to develop many of the college’s signature programs and also raised millions of private dollars to establish endowed scholarship funds providing hundreds of student scholarships each year in perpetuity. Mr. Sharron’s efforts as Executive Director of the Santa Fe College Endowment Corporation and Foundation were known nationally and viewed as an ideal model for community college foundations throughout the country. Through his vision and work with the foundation board, he created more than five education centers and multiple programs with private funds for Santa Fe, including the Andrews Center in Starke, the Blount Center in Gainesville, the E.L. Mathews Historical Museum in Starke, the Sharron Geological Field Station in Newberry, the Lillian Stump Building in Starke, the Spring Arts House in Gainesville, the Davis Center in Archer, and the Watson Center in Keystone Heights.
A founder of his profession, Mr. Sharron was also the owner of a national development and fund raising organization, Sharron & Associates, which operated in more than 30 states and provided assistance with grants and the development of community college foundations and not-for-profit organizations. He played an active role in the creation and expansion of more than 400 college foundations and the founding of several nonprofits in this capacity. He was instrumental in the creation of the National Council for Resource Development (NCRD) in Washington, DC, where he started the NCRD Internship Program, helped found the Florida Council for Resource Development and compiled and edited the book The Community College Foundation, a major work which has shaped the development of community college foundations throughout the United States. He was also extensively published in the area of organizing and developing not-for-profit foundations.
Mr. Sharron was recognized by Phi Delta Kappa as one of the 75 Outstanding Young Education Leaders in America for his personal and professional commitment to advancing the cause of equal educational opportunity for all. He was awarded the first CRD Founders Award in recognition of his national impact in resource development.
His vision, energy and philanthropic commitment also extended to the community at large. He volunteered with countless civic organizations and charities and at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, where he was a member for more than 50 years. He served as a Lieutenant Governor of Kiwanis and was a founding member and President of Gator City Kiwanis in Gainesville. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Samaritan Center for North Florida. He was also founding member of the Board of Directors of both the United Citizens Bank of Alachua County and First National Bank of Bradford County. He served on the Board of the North Florida Retirement Village for eleven years and led as Chairman of the Board for three. Nationally, he sat on the Board of Directors for the Center for International Leadership Foundation in Dallas, Tex. and the Allegheny Heart Institute in Pittsburgh, Pen.
Mr. Sharron was a loyal, dedicated and loving family man who always exhibited a generous spirit. He was a voracious reader with a penchant for history and politics and traveled extensively throughout the United States and around the world. In retirement, he also enjoyed managing his agricultural interests on the family farm in North Florida.
Mr. Sharron is survived by his wife of more than 48 years, Sandra Warren Sharron, his only daughter Kristina Sharron Enos and her husband Matthew Enos of New York City, mother-in-law Irene Warren of Gainesville, sisters-in-law Sherry McNeel of Tampa and Connie Liles of Tallahassee, nephews Jarrett and Warren Liles, great-nephews Luke and Joshua Liles and great-niece Juliet Liles, all of Tallahassee.
A Service of Remembrance will be held at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 14105 NW 39th Avenue, Gainesville, FL, on Friday, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. Interment will be at Springhill Cemetery, Graceville, FL, in a private ceremony to be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to the W. Harvey Sharron, Jr. Scholarship Fund may be made online at www.sfcollegefoundation.org or by mailing a check to Santa Fe College Foundation, 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville, FL 32606. Memorial donations may also be made to First Baptist Church of Gainesville online at www.fbcgainesville.net or by mailing a check to First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 14105 NW 39th Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32606.