The Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan ’55, USMC Ret. Endowed Scholarship

The Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan ’55, USMC Ret. Endowed Scholarship

Criteria: (Four $2,500 awards) The Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan ’55, USMC Ret. Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to sophomore, junior or senior students who are matriculated and attending Worcester State University full-time. The students must have GPAs of 3.5 or higher and demonstrate financial need. Preference will be given to students who are participating in the NROTC program at Worcester State University.

An entry in the Class of 1955’s yearbook describes James F. Sheehan as “brilliant…courteous… the gentleman scholar.” Fifty years and several successful careers later, another word may be added to his resume: philanthropist.

In November 2005, Mr. Sheehan made a donation just shy of $500,000 to Worcester State University, the largest cash gift in its history. In announcing his gift, Mr. Sheehan humbly and simply shared, “It’s about time I give something back.”

Mr. Sheehan grew up an only child in Framingham, Mass. At a young age, he learned the value of hard work, working in grocery stores and pushing wheelbarrows to earn spending money. As a student at Worcester State Teachers College, Mr. Sheehan studied secondary education with a concentration in history, but his true ambition was to become a professional soldier.

Upon graduation, Mr. Sheehan embarked on a 22-year career with the United States Marine Corps, retiring in 1977 as a lieutenant colonel. During his years with the Marine Corps, Mr. Sheehan served in Vietnam, where, as an infantry officer, he commanded “everything from a platoon to a battalion.” In addition to the high rank Mr. Sheehan achieved in the military, he also enjoyed many other accomplishments: he earned an M.B.A. from American University; wrote a textbook; served as an adjunct professor; headed up a joint services computer science school; and served as deputy chief of JINTACS (Joint Interoperability of Tactical Command and Control Systems), which conceptualized defense systems for the 1990s, including the system widely known as “Star Wars.”

Along the way, he met and married Dorothy Olds, a Marine Corps captain. Dorothy was a talented mathematician who taught at several universities and military bases throughout Europe. Mr. Sheehan fondly recalls that “she took me through calculus at the kitchen table.”

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Mr. Sheehan used his math and business skills to embark on a successful career as a venture capitalist. He and his wife settled in Florida, where they established 14 scholarships through a number of charitable organizations. Sadly, Mrs. Sheehan passed in 2000, thus ending their 40-year marriage.

Fifty years after Mr. Sheehan used his WSTC degree to begin a career that would bring him astonishing success, he was determined to help current and future students at his alma mater. “I got a free ride at Worcester State, thanks to the Olive Higgins Prouty Scholarship,” he recalls. “It’s important to me to give other students the same opportunities that I had.”