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University Remembers Professor Emerita Nancy Weatherly Sharp
Nancy Weatherly Sharp, professor emerita in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and former University mace bearer, died on Feb. 12. She was 86.
Sharp was born in Illinois and raised in Missouri. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri and graduated first in her class. There, she met her husband, James Roger Sharp. The couple later moved to San Francisco, where Nancy worked as a reporter and feature writer for The Oakland Tribune. In 1966, they moved to Syracuse when Roger was offered a faculty position in Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Nancy worked as the science and medical reporter for the Syracuse Herald-Journal.
In the 1970s, Nancy was offered a faculty position at the Newhouse School as a professor of newspaper journalism, becoming one of the first women hired there. She served as the school’s first assistant dean for graduate and professional studies, managed the Leaders in Communications speaker series and founded the Graduate Newspaper Fellowship for Minorities in 1994. She was an active member on many schoolwide committees.
Nancy was also the first woman to serve as Syracuse University mace bearer, a position she held from 2004 to 2017. In that role, she led the academic procession at graduation and for other academic events. She was the editor of “Communications Research: The Challenge of the Information Age” and also co-edited several books on American legislative leaders with her husband, professor emeritus of history in the Maxwell School.
“Nancy Sharp was the persuasive and charming head of the search committee that brought me to Newhouse in 1990, so naturally I have great affection for her,” says David M. Rubin, dean emeritus of the Newhouse School. “She set high standards for her writing and reporting students. She was instrumental in establishing one of the first internship programs in the U.S. to help increase the number of Black journalists in newsrooms across the country. In this endeavor she partnered with the Syracuse Post-Standard and oversaw the program for the Newhouse School. This program alone elevates her to the rank of one of the most esteemed print journalism professors of the last half century.”
“When I joined the Newhouse faculty in 1986 after a career in public relations, there were very few women on the faculty, in any of the disciplines,” says Maria P. Russell, professor emerita of public relations. “I still remember Nancy’s invitations to lunch that served as an “orientation” for new women colleagues, especially those of who were not familiar with the academic life experienced by others who were graduates of doctoral programs. She never dictated the ‘dos and don’ts’ of tenure and promotion, but instead asked: “have you thought about…?” Later when she was associate dean for graduate and professional studies, she was a supportive listener as I proposed a distance-learning master’s program for working professionals.”
“Nancy was one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and her enthusiasm for journalism, Syracuse University and life itself was infectious,” says Barbara Croll Fought, retired associate professor of broadcast journalism and Sharp’s colleague and friend. “So many women faculty have commented to me about how grateful they are for her mentorship through the years.”
“I had the pleasure to meet Nancy and it was clear she held tremendous love for the Newhouse School and Syracuse University,” says Mark J. Lodato, dean of the Newhouse School. “We are indebted to Nancy for her commitment to Newhouse and helping make it what it is today. I know her loss will be felt by many in our Newhouse community.”
Sharp is survived by her husband of 65 years, Roger; daughter, Sandy Sharp; son, Matt (Martha) Sharp; and four grandchildren, Christopher, Weatherly, Meredith and Welles.
A memorial will be held in Hendricks Chapel on Saturday, March 4, at noon, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Food Center at the University United Methodist Church, 1085 E. Genesee St., Syracuse NY 13210.