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For Sherards, Methodist is More Than a Family Affair

Sherard familyFounding family’s gift upgrades Methodist University Hospital chapel for all to share

When they were younger, John Sherard’s twins would typically say the same thing whenever he’d leave his home in the Mississippi Delta for a Methodist Healthcare board meeting. “They’d say, ‘You’re going to our hospital,’” Sherard explains. “Now they’re almost 9, and they need to know it’s not OUR hospital. But back then, I would just say, ‘Yes.’”

Katie and Jack Sherard have good reason to claim Methodist as theirs. Their great-great-great grandfather, John Holmes Sherard, planted the seeds that became Methodist Healthcare when he travelled to Memphis in 1899 and learned that his Methodist pastor was being cared for in the charity ward of a hospital. His conviction that Memphis should have a Methodist hospital kindled a movement that eventually became the largest healthcare provider in the Mid-South.

Today, Methodist University Hospital has a Sherard Wing and the Sherard Chapel. The family ties to the hospital are overwhelming, but John Sherard V, who still farms the land that has been in his family for generations, is reminded that Methodist is about much more than his family every time he gets a call from a friend who’s been there.

“Once every two weeks or so, somebody will call and say they’ve been at Methodist and they say something like, ‘The Sherard Wing—what’s up with that?’ Then they invariably will tell me how overjoyed they were with the care they received at Methodist.”

 A heritage of healthcare excellence

It may not be the Sherard’s hospital, but the family is a model for the gratitude that many feel for Methodist as a resource for Memphis and the Mid-South.

Maggie Sherard understands the family connection as well as anyone. She was married to John H. Sherard IV, John’s father, known to most as Jack. He served on the board of the hospital for 35 years, 17 as board chair. “I would watch him get up at 5 a.m. and drive to Memphis to be at the hospital by 7 a.m., because that’s when a doctor could meet,” Maggie says. “He did it morning after morning and day after day. And he would be back at the farm by 9:30 or 10 working.” Jack died in 2009, but the love of Methodist he inherited lives on. “The Lord expects a lot of those that he blesses,” Maggie says. “And we’ve been truly blessed.”

To honor Jack and the multiple generations of Sherards who have given to Methodist and diligently served on its boards, a group of seven family members have made a generous gift to renovate the Sherard Chapel. John remembers shoveling dirt at the groundbreaking of the Sherard Wing and laying the first brick in the Sherard Chapel cross. But his connection to the hospital system goes beyond family pride.

“The chapel needs to be available for prayer and a quiet place to go,” he says. “We want Sherard Chapel to always be there. A hospital is not necessarily a place you want to be, but if you have to be there, Methodist is the best place to be.”