William and Mary

In Memoriam: Roger Sherman

Roger ShermanProfessor Emeritus Roger Durand Sherman, former Chair of the Department of Theatre and Speech at William and Mary, died peacefully at home on October 4, 2010.

"He was just a beautiful person," recalled his colleague Richard Palmer.  "He was deeply engaged in the arts, even though he was a very quiet person."

Born in Providence, RI, in 1913, he was a Williamsburg resident since 1946.  He was a graduate of William and Mary and attended the Yale University School of Drama. During World War II, he served in the Pacific Theatre as a training officer with Fighting Squadron 21.  He retired in 1973 from the Reserve Naval Intelligence Program with the rank of Commander.

Prior to the war, Mr. Sherman was a faculty member at Lawrence College in Appleton, WI, for three years.  After the war, he returned to college teaching, this time at William and Mary as a professor in the Department of Theatre and Speech from 1946 to 1958 and again from 1966 to 1977.  There he taught popular theatre courses and was lighting designer for the William and Mary Theatre and for Orchesis, the modern dance performing group.  His last theatre lighting design was for the Lanford Wilson play, The Hot L Baltimore, in 1975.  He was Chair of the Department from 1974 to 1977. 

From 1946 to 1966, he was Scenic and Lighting Designer of Paul Green’s “The Common Glory” and “The Founders,” both summer outdoor dramas that were presented at Lake Matoaka on the William and Mary campus.  He served as Executive Vice-President of the Jamestown Corporation, the producer of the dramas, from 1958 to 1970.  Sylvia Hunt, an employee of the Jamestown Corporation, remembers, "He was one of the most genuine people I've ever known, kind and warmhearted."

Mr. Sherman did architectural planning for Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, the Williamsburg Regional Library Art Center with a 268-seat theatre and art gallery, Christopher Newport College’s Performing Arts Center, and several outdoor drama amphitheatres. 

Always active in the arts, he was a Trustee for “An Occasion for the Arts” between 1985-1986, President of the 20th Century Gallery (now This Century Art Gallery) from 1979 to 1981, and a Commissioner for the Williamsburg Arts Commission, 1985-88. 

In 1992 he received the Leslie Cheek Award for Outstanding Presentation of The Arts.  The honor is named for the former head of the Department of Fine Arts at William and Mary and Director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Mr. Sherman was an outstanding photographer and expert darkroom worker.  He also was an avid canoeist and especially enjoyed white-water canoeing.  A gracious host, he enjoyed showing friends the woods and views surrounding his home.

He is survived by his wife of thirty-eight years, Carol Wallace Sherman, Professor Emeritus of Dance at William and Mary.  Survivors also include his two daughters, Bonnie Susanne Sherman of Northfield, MN; and Laura Lyell House, of Southern Pines, NC.; and his son David Durand Sherman of Williamsburg.  His five grandchildren include Elizabeth Wright of Hopkins, MN; Francis Wright of St. Paul, MN; Forest Saxon Christian, of McLean, VA; Dare Durand Frey of Virginia Beach; and Morgan McGregor Sherman, of Martinsville, VA.   He also has nine great grandchildren. 

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Susanne Ketchum Sherman, mother of his children, and by his two younger brothers, John Harris Sherman and David Lyell Sherman.

Those seeking to memorialize his life are invited to contribute to "The Roger Durand Sherman Perpetual Book Fund" at the Williamsburg Regional Library, 7770 Croaker Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188 or to the Building Fund of This Century Art Gallery, P.O. Box 388, Williamsburg, VA 23187-0388.