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William Sherrill
William Sherrill

Commencement Close-up: William Sherrill blew everyone away when he left nuclear physics for percussion

(May 13, 2005)--William Sherrill's story is an example of how life and learning continue after retirement. This Friday he will add a music degree, at the age of 69, to an already extensive educational and professional resume.

A native of San Antonio, Bill Sherrill was a member of the Jefferson High School band. "I always enjoyed playing music," he said. "Every day that I come to UTSA, I say, 'Boy, this is going to be a fun day!' because I get to play music all day."

However, after high school he attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physics in 1957. Sherrill then went on to pursue a master's degree in nuclear physics from Rice University.

As a professional, he worked on a nuclear aircraft engine project in 1958. When the project was shut down, he started work in 1959 at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, where he worked for 40 years in defense electronics before retiring."

He explained that since he is now finishing a music degree, people think that he worked all those years in a field that he didn't like. "I did what I wanted to do and had a terrific career," Sherrill said. "However, I decided I wanted to do something different after I retired."

Throughout his life, there were spans as long as 10 years when he didn't even touch an instrument. But, every time that a son or grandson joined a band he would play along with them."

"Playing music with them reminded me of how fun it was," said Sherrill. UTSA music lecturer Sherry Rubins was an instructor of one of his grandsons who persuaded him to seek a music degree at UTSA.

He enrolled at UTSA in music and got in contact with Rubins to guide him in seeking a percussion performance degree.

Sherrill has enjoyed his education in UTSA's music department. "It's very different from a big technical school," he said. "Students all work together and the faculty are interested in them."

As a member of the UTSA Honors College, Sherrill will graduate summa cum laude Friday. He will continue his studies in music by pursuing a doctorate degree in musicology.

He thinks that students that return to school after several years bring a different perspective than that of younger students and can provide good advice to them.

"You know that you should learn everything you can and to appreciate professors' advice," Sherrill added.

--Hector Benavides

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