This article appeared in the most recent issue of Transylvania’s Third & Broadway magazine.
Sometimes Sherry Holley ’88 strolls a few blocks up Market Street from her financial advisory firm to Transylvania University’s campus, just because it feels good to return to where it all started.
She’s remained more than physically close to her alma mater. In fact, Holley is a university trustee who credits her Transylvania experience with helping her lead a successful and fulfilling life.
“It’s something that I carry with me and speak about often,” she says. “It’s a big part of my life.”
Athletics has played a large role. Holley, who participated in field hockey, basketball and softball at Transylvania, was named the 1988 Pioneer Athlete of the Year and later was inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame. Shortly after graduation, while launching her career at Merrill Lynch, she served as the university’s assistant basketball coach and then head softball coach, helping the program transition to fast pitch.
Her later financial support made possible the softball field’s Ronald and Frances Holley Players Lounge (named after her parents). And she remains involved with Transylvania athletics to this day — for instance, she’s 4-1 as a guest coach for the wildly successful women’s basketball team.
Looking back, Holley is grateful for the mentorship of her former coaches. They include the legendary Pat Deacon, who counseled her to see an adviser when she was struggling with a political science class and law school ambitions. As a result, Holley ended up enrolling in a May term investment analysis course, which was described to her as like walking into the Stock Exchange; they’d regularly read The Wall Street Journal and watch “Wall Street Week.” “I was off the charts — this is what I want to do. I love this,” says Holley of her reaction to the class. She went on to earn a business management degree and now serves as president of Gratz Park Private Wealth.
She supports the school so enthusiastically in large part because of the experiences that set her on her path. And she says other alumni can point to similar, life-altering turning points they had at Transylvania. She encourages them to return to campus to see not only the major physical changes (such as the new Campus Center and residence halls), but also what the students are experiencing — including new programs like the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Holley is a resource for business and marking studies herself. Coaches sometimes send her their players for advice, and she provides students with internships. She’s also on the Pioneer Advisory Council, which for now is mostly involved with selecting Hall of Fame inductees but may expand into fundraising and other efforts to help coaches boost the school’s enrollment.
“Our coaches do a great job of telling the Transylvania story and have brought in some wonderful student-athletes,” Holley says.
And after they bring students in, she knows first hand how supportive coaches are in their players’ lives and academic success. “It’s not like they’re just showing up for a job,” Holley says. (Even after all these years, coach Deacon often calls her and sends cards.)
The influence of her own coaches is evident in how she interacts with her staff at the financial firm. “I can’t tell you how often I’ve used some of my coaches’ sayings with my own team here, helping young women grow into the career they want.”
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