Gwen Sherman, a 1980 graduate who serves as director of finance and administration for the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Southwestern University.

The award was presented April 10 during a day of activities that also included a panel discussion on equity in education – a topic that is of personal interest to Sherman.

Steve Seleznow, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, shared some of the initiatives that the foundation has undertaken to ensure that all children have equal opportunity to quality education.

Sherman earned a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from Southwestern. At Southwestern, she helped set up the university’s Student Foundation and was its first president. She also was instrumental in reviving University Sing after many years of dormancy.

Sherman went on to work for CPA firms in San Antonio and Austin and as finance director for the City of Georgetown. Following a move with her husband to the Pacific Northwest, Sherman became director of finance for the Seattle Children’s Home and financial planning manager for the City of Redmond, Wash. In 1999, she became the controller for the Gates Learning Foundation. When the Learning Foundation merged into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sherman was promoted to her current position of director of finance and administration.

The Gates Foundation is the wealthiest grant maker in the nation, with more than $38 billion in assets. Sherman oversees 40 employees as well as facilities in Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New Delhi, India. She also is working on the design and development of the Foundation’s new headquarters on 12 acres in downtown Seattle.

“Gwen has had an extraordinary career,” said Georgianne Hewett, associate vice president for alumni and parent relations. “She has enormous responsibilities with the premier foundation in the world.”

Sherman says Southwestern has been instrumental to her success in many ways: the rigorous academic training she received, the opportunities to build leadership skills, and relationships in and outside the classroom with people who encouraged her along the way. “Southwestern helped prepare me for every job I have held since graduating, and each job helped prepare me for the next one,” she says.

Sherman remains involved with Southwestern. She is a member of the University’s Board of Visitors and is assisting with the development of a Puget Sound Association of Southwestern University Alumni. She delivered Southwestern’s commencement address in May 2007. 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.


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