New alumnus says nothing should stand in the way of goals
July 12, 2021
King’s University College has changed a lot over the years. Perhaps no one knows that better than John Sherratt ’21. The 73-year-old recent alumnus came to King’s in 1968 but left after his second year.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2019 when he saw a sign for King’s Open House. “Something just drew me to come in and inquire about finishing that degree,” he says. He spoke with Stacie Merritt, ’16, Admissions and Recruitment Officer, who was encouraging and assisted him with the necessary steps to be re-admitted to King’s.
When asked for advice for those thinking about coming back to class to finish their degree, Sherratt has two words: “DO IT!” He adds there are absolutely no reasons not to come back to school. “Whether someone is 30 or 70, nothing should stand in the way if you really want to do it,” says Sherratt.
Sherratt says it was an incredible feeling to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree. “When I started this last bit, I set myself a goal to complete the remaining courses in time to graduate exactly 50 years after I should have graduated in 1971. I am utterly thrilled that I managed to meet that goal,” he says.
He found some comfort coming from an educational environment, having gone back to school and later teaching as a Professor at DeVry for nearly 30 years before his 2014 retirement. But he still found it unnerving returning to the life of a student. “Some of that might be a level of concern about whether I still had the ability to learn at a university level,” he says. The first few weeks were “rather nerve-racking” but at the time “it felt like coming home.”
During an Orientation Tour of the campus, Sherratt marvelled at the changes to campus he saw, while also being overwhelmed. “One of the first things I noticed was the number of buildings which now make up the campus, as well as the change of use in some areas,” he recalls.
In addition to being a men’s only college in 1968, King’s was a lot smaller. The only buildings that existed were Wemple Hall (which included a section then used for the school library), what is now Dante Lenardon Hall and the townhouse residences along Meadowdown Drive. Sherratt lived in in Wemple Hall during his first year, before moving into the townhouses in his second year.
Sherratt was born in Birmingham, England and raised in the Brantford area. It was there where he attended St. John’s College. The priests and principal, Rev. Brian Hennessey, recommended King’s to not only Sherratt but several other St. John’s students, which was a Catholic men’s school at that time. With three priests in his greater family, his mother hoped he might enter St. Peter’s Seminary.
“I am not certain I was ready for university and would much rather have trained as an artist,” Sherratt admits. Instead of picking a major, he took courses that “were all over the map from Economics to Business to Philosophy and Psychology.”
Sherratt has many fond memories of his initial time at King’s. He remembers sitting in the cafeteria with the future Dr. Paul Werstine, ’70, now Professor of English and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. As King’s began admitting women during his second year, he attended University Students’ Council (USC) meetings with a young woman who later became Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Sheila Copps ’74.
Upon his return, Sherratt was “particularly taken aback” to see the building formerly referred to as “the Mansion” was renamed “a wonderful chap who taught me French (or tried to) in my first year back in ’68, Dante Lenardon. I have only wonderful memories of him,” he says.
“Back in the 60s I was more involved in extra-curricular activities than in my studies. There are pictures in the old yearbook, Regalia '69, of me helping to build a giant purple dinosaur for the Homecoming Parade. I also have a picture of me, the KUCSC president and London Mayor Jane Bigelow kicking off the annual canned food drive. The newspaper article says I was chairman of the food drive.” Sherratt would receive a “Citation Award” recognizing his participation in King’s activities that still hangs proudly on his wall.
Sherratt admits that he was not the best student and was “invited” to take a year off from his studies. While he later took a Psychology course at the University of Waterloo, he entered the job force. He worked in the accounting field, both in London, Ontario and in Europe (England, France and Germany.) In 1980, he worked for what was then called the Department of National Revenue, rising to department supervisor of the Appeals Division.
“About 1982 or ’83, I began to realize that computers were becoming more important and that perhaps I should learn something about them,” Sherratt recalls. He enrolled at DeVry Institute of Technology, earned a BSc in Computer Information Systems and was offered a teaching position as an Associate Professor at the DeVry campus in Toronto, where he remained until his retirement in 2014. He was also a part-owner of a software development firm in St Louis, Missouri focusing on developing database software for the medical community for several years.
Although he was significantly older than many of his classmates, Sherratt says he did not feel so out of place. Having spent a good portion of his life teaching the young, he was able to maintain a younger outlook.
The benefits of his life experience also gave him a better understanding of how to deal with challenges. However, he wants to recognize the encouragement he received from Stacie Merritt and Dorotea Gucciardo, Lecturer of History and the “extremely kind and helpful” faculty including John Heng, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Erika Katzman, Assistant Professor of Disability Studies, and Dr. Oleksa Drachewych, Assistant Professor of History at Western University.
While Sherratt completed his degree, his time at King’s is not over just yet. “The experience of completing a degree has been fascinating. It has rekindled a love of learning, so much so, that I have enrolled to do another degree at King’s, in Philosophy, starting in September. I have in mind to complete a four-year degree with some idea of doing graduate work thereafter.” he says. He will also be a mentor to other mature students coming to campus this fall.