I first met Mr. Sherman at the Akron Zoo in the early 90's when I began to volunteer there. He was a member of the Board and at the time, the zoo was in the process of building Tiger Valley, including the new animal hospital bearing Sherman's name. Most zoo visitors knew him as the "penny man," handing out pennies to children at the front gate of the zoo. At the time, there was a plastic vortex penny collection bin and Mr. Sherman would hand pennies to the children to make them smile and welcome them to the zoo. My children were the happy beneficiaries to this service many times as youngsters!
He also insisted on wearing the wizard costume every year for Boo at the Zoo. Everyone knew better than to ask to be the wizard - it was "Roger's costume." But most people didn't realize that in addition to donating his time, he also donated his money and his extensive executive experience as a long-time zoo board member.
Pat Simmons, President and CEO of the Akron Zoo was especially fond of him and said this about Sherman:
''Roger Sherman was an inspirational mentor and a dear, dear personal friend. He was like 'the little engine that could' to the Akron Zoo. He was always there for us, pushing us and making sure the Akron Zoo would achieve greatness, and he would settle for no less. Roger was truly a servant leader.''
Most people also don't know that he was instrumental in making Akron Children's Hospital into the world class facility it is today. The Akron Beacon Journal reports:
"Roger J. Sherman moved from Minnesota to Akron in 1944 to take over the Mary Day Nursery and Children's Hospital. He was 29 years old.
The hospital had 100 beds, 180 employees and a budget of $185,000.
During the 36 years he led the facility, now known as Akron Children's Hospital, he had grown it into a regional referral center with 1,200 employees, 253 beds and a $30 million budget.
Today it boasts 4,232 employees who treated 550,000 children from almost every county in Ohio, 37 states and 13 countries last year, providing care in 78 locations with a budget of $428 million."
His obituary notes the following additions to the hospital during his tenure:
"There were numerous changes at Children's under Roger's leadership. Just a few of those were the establishment of the Central Burn Center for Children, the Poison Control Center, the Margaret Stone Laboratories, construction of the Auditorium & Education Building (which bears his name), establishment of the Cardiac Catherization Unit, the Urology Laboratory and medical Photography Department, establishment of one of the very first computer systems for hospital use in the mid-1960's, the Electrodiagnostic Laboratory, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Mary A. Howser Health Sciences Library, a new Outpatient facility with a new Emergency Department (Ambulatory Care Unit), a new Regional Intensive Care Unit, the Regional Burn Center for Children and Adults, a new Adolescent Surgical & Orthopedic Unit, a new Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit, and Physical & Occupational Child Life Programs. "
It's mind-boggling to think of the progress made in his 36 years at Children's Hospital! This was truly a gifted and hard-working man.
According to his daughter, Irene Hayden, her father was largely self-educated. He was born a poor farmer, but decided at age 6 that the farming life was not for him. He desired to further his education, but did not have the means to do so. His high school principal offered to help out, but young Roger had to leave school to return to the farm when his father fell ill. He took a job as a hospital orderly and began his self-education , reading Fortune Magazine and anything else he could find. "That is how he educated himself in business," said his daughter. She also reports that he used to read two books a week and had kept a journal since 1940, writing in it every day. Extraordinary!
His obituary also noted this:
"He came into life without monetary assets and he went out the same way, having donated most of the assets he accumulated throughout his life to assist various causes he valued most."I don't know what Mr. Sherman's spiritual condition was or whether he had a relationship with Christ, but he certainly demonstrated the truth of these verses from 1 Timothy 6:7-8:
"[W]e brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content."I will always remember Mr. Sherman as a man who was kind and generous with his time. He always took the time to ask me about my children and spoke kindly to them whenever they were around the zoo. When he found out I was homeschooling them, he was curious and encouraging. Even in his 80's he wanted to learn - he asked about the homeschooling regulations and how I planned to accomplish the task. If you knew Roger, you know he was always direct and didn't pull any punches! Once he was satisfied that I had all my bases covered, he was enthusiastic and encouraging. I will always be grateful for that bit of encouragement from such an accomplished man.