Volume 18 • Issue 1
The Distinguished Alumna/us Award is the highest honor annually awarded by The Association of Southwestern University Alumni. Recipients exemplify the qualities of excellence as taught and represented by Southwestern.
Throughout her career, Sherri Haygood Babcock 70 has excelled at doing things she was not trained to do. She credits this ability to her liberal arts education at Southwestern University.
Advertising, higher education administration and Christian education are among the fields at which Babcock has tried her hand. Her contributions to these fields have earned her Southwestern Universitys 2006 Distinguished Alumna Award.
The daughter of a Methodist minister, Babcock spent her childhood living in various towns throughout East Texas. She chose to attend Southwestern because of its Methodist affiliation, and became the first student to earn an American Studies degree from the University.
It was just wonderfulI loved it, she says of her coursework that focused on the interaction of history, literature and culture.
After graduation, Babcock had planned to teach English or history, but fell into the advertising business and found she had a knack for it. She spent 20 years with The Bloom Agency in Dallas, ending her career as a senior vice president overseeing national advertising accounts for clients such as Maybelline cosmetics, Southwest Airlines, Zales Jewelers and Six Flags Over Texas. Along the way, she earned an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.
In 1983, Babcock was elected to the board of the Southwestern University Alumni Association. She served as president of the association from 1988 to 1992a position that also made her a member of the Southwestern University Board of Trustees. Her responsibilities as a trustee included serving as chair of the boards Student Life Subcommittee.
Her involvement with the board led Babcock to wonder whether there might be a place for her in higher education. She originally thought she might be suited for university fundraising, but when the position of vice president and dean of students became vacant at Southwestern in the summer of 1992, then-president Roy B. Shilling asked her if she would be willing to fill in on a temporary basis. She ended up being hired for the job permanently and stayed in the position until 2003.
During her tenure as vice president and dean of students, Babcock had many accomplishments of which she remains proud. Among these was her contribution to the construction of several new buildings on campus, including the Red & Charline McCombs Campus Center. She also hired many of the key administrators who are familiar names on campus today, including Deb Brown, Beverly Jones, Mike Leese, John Ragle, Gail Starzynski, Derek Timourian and Roger Young. She promoted Glada Munt to director of athletics and oversaw the Universitys transition to Division III athletics, which greatly increased athletic opportunities for Southwestern students.
But perhaps her fondest memories are of the students she knew. I feel tremendous pride when I hear from the students I worked with and learn of the interesting and important work they are doing, their community involvement and their family projects, she says. Babcock guesses that she receives between 50 and 60 cards from former students each Christmas.
After leaving Southwestern, Babcock started Project Partnerships (www.projectpartnerships.com), a company that advises liberal arts colleges on student affairs administrative transitions.
In talking with deans at other liberal arts colleges, I realized that when anything out of the ordinary hits a student affairs department, whether it be a departure or a disciplinary case, sometimes there wasnt anyone to handle it, she says. She has provided advice during transition periods or helped find new student affairs leaders for nearly a dozen colleges in the past two years.
She also serves as director of Christian education and young adult ministries at First United Methodist Church in Georgetown. Our minister was looking for someone who could advise him on how young parents can transmit their faith to their children, Babcock says. Although I do not have a degree in Christian education, I had worked with these young people as college students and he thought I would know how to work with them as parents. My original intention was to find out what was needed and hire someone to replace me. But I liked the position so much that I stayed.
A battle with breast cancer 10 years ago moved Babcock to become involved with several breast cancer support groups. She has served as president of the Williamson County chapter of the American Cancer Society and participates in the annual Relay for Life walk. My cancer would have been much worse if it had not been caught early, Babcock says. I try to do anything to raise awareness.
Babcock also has served as chair of the board for the Georgetown Project, and worked with LifeSteps, a drug and alcohol prevention program in Williamson County.
Babcock met her husband, Jim, while working in the advertising business. The couple has a daughter, Courtney, who is entering graduate school at New York University this fall. They live in a colorful two-story Victorian house just a few blocks from campus on University Avenue. I became interested in Georgetown architecture while I was a student at Southwestern and took a course on the American West with Martha Allen, Babcock says. It was always my aspiration to have an old house when we moved back to Georgetown.
Babcock requested that the events surrounding her Distinguished Alumna Award ceremony focus on diversitya topic for which she has had a passion since struggling as a woman in the male-dominated field of advertising. Events planned for the day included a chapel service that celebrated cultural differences in worship and a forum featuring Southwestern graduates of different backgrounds. She hoped the event would encourage others to contribute to her favorite cause at Southwesternthe Dixon Scholarship Fund, which helps high-achieving African-American, Hispanic and Native American students attend the University. I want to help us understand why diversity is important and why the Dixon Scholarships are important, she says.