June Sherman Spirit of Life Scholarship | WMU Alumni Skip to main content

June Sherman Spirit of Life Scholarship


Central to the core values of nursing is the Spirit of Life. Nurses have the rare opportunity to directly affect the lives of thousands during their working career, and to lift people up. Whoa caregiver is—their quality of character—often determines their success in life as much as what they know. The Spirit of Life scholarship is given to spotlight those qualities so important to being a significant person, and to making a difference in the lives of others.

A Scholarship of Celebration

A Scholarship of CelebrationThe Spirit of Life was abundant in June M. Sherman who exemplified the basic virtue of working hard and believed that goodness can be enlarged in everyday opportunities. A great respect for life and providing care for others was a driving force in the personal and professional efforts of Mrs. Sherman, a national pioneer in the field of mental health. Mrs. Sherman started as an aide in the Occupational Therapy Department of the Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital immediately adjacent to the Bronson School of Nursing, and, driven by her willingness to do more for patients than her job required, Mrs. Sherman rose to become the first director of volunteer services at any state mental hospital in the United States. There, Mrs. Sherman was responsible for organizing over 1,800 local volunteers into a Citizens Association—one of the largest volunteer forces ever seen at a health facility.


Dr. Clay Sherman, June's son, writes: “My mother was ‘only’ a high school graduate, but she earned two Presidential Commendations from Presidents Nixon and Bush for her pioneering work in mental health. For example: when patients expressed a wish for a place of religious worship, she mobilized the volunteers, raised the money, built the chapel, and gave it free and clear to the State of Michigan!  To her, no problem was too big, no need should go unanswered.”  

June Sherman Spirit of Life Scholarship“I never heard her disrespect anyone, she never once demeaned people. The mentally ill were invited to our home every holiday when families ceased to visit, and they were treated as honored guests. Even in difficulty, her enthusiasm gave the phrase ‘positive attitude’ meaning. Now that she is gone I realize that she was truly a great person, not just in the meanings of being a good mom, but also in the sense that she was fully human and fully involved in changing this world. She was the real deal and believed that all of us have a special mission which we have to discover.”  (To read about Mrs. Sherman's work click here for an excerpt from her book, Poking Holes in the Darkness).

June Sherman Spirit of Life ScholarshipThe June M. Sherman Spirit of Life scholarship also pays special tribute to June’s daughter, Nola Benson, RN, who earned her diploma from the former Bronson Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in 1954.  Mrs. Sherman’s best gift to life was Nola, who could light up a room by just entering it and was, in Shakespeare’s phrase, “a spirit melodious.” Nola is remembered for her strength of character, high standards of personal and nursing excellence, and for being a perfect mother. In times of trouble, Nola could always be counted on to stand by those in need. The June M. Sherman Spirit of Life scholarship is meant to encourage nurse recipients to be dedicated to the acronym NOLA: Nursing Others for Life Achievement. 

The scholarship is provided by Dr. Clay Sherman, a two-time graduate of Western Michigan, and his wife Stephanie. This scholarship was established to support a profession that has meant much to their lives personally and professionally, as well as to honor Dr. Sherman’s late mother and sister in a significant and meaningful way. The scholarship is meant to encourage nurse recipients to bring the power of who they are to bear on their important work. Further information on the Sherman’s work in supporting nursing education can be found at SpiritOfLifeCharity.com.




Bronson School of Nursing students, who have achieved junior- or senior-level status and have a GPA of 3.0 or greater on a 4-point scale, are eligible to apply. Preference will be given to non-traditional students, nursing students who are single parents or currently from single parent families, or any who come from adverse or disadvantaged background, such as victims of abuse or poverty. Preference is also given to students indicating a career interest in mental health, pediatrics, oncology, or nursing administration. The scholarship is renewable for up to two years with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale.

For more information and a scholarship application, please contact Marsha Mahan in the College of Health and Human Services at marsha.mahan@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8154.