As Marc and Wilma Register Sharp ’66 have worked tirelessly to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, Longwood University’s mission of nurturing citizen leaders in a residential setting has always struck a deep chord with the Williamsburg couple.
The Sharps met on Longwood’s campus 50 years ago after Marc rode down from the University of Virginia on the back of his roommate’s motorcycle. As the parents of five children—including Jennie Sharp Davidson ’98—they developed an especially deep connection over the years to a spot on campus where the university’s mission is displayed with particular focus: the tight-knit learning community of the Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars.
Now the Sharps have underscored that connection and their commitment to Longwood’s residential college experience with a $2 million gift that will endow the deanship of the Cormier Honors College and support its work. In recognition of their contribution, two residence halls currently under construction will be named in the couple’s honor. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, Sharp Hall and Register Hall will house about 100 students each.
"Our daughter found an unbelievably welcoming and supportive atmosphere at Longwood where she could grow and thrive in a way that wouldn’t have happened at other schools," said Wilma Sharp. "She found true backing among the faculty and in Dr. Patricia Cormier, who helped her see possibilities in her own life. That’s a story that’s repeated time and time again at Longwood and is truly the hallmark of a great institution."
"Marc and Wilma Sharp are extraordinary champions of Longwood and the Honors College," said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. "Their gift will be genuinely transformative for the Honors College and for its students, securing its strong leadership and helping the college’s distinctive academic program grow even stronger. The Honors College is a beacon within Longwood and beyond, and that beacon today shines more brightly than ever thanks to Wilma and Marc’s generosity."
Honors students mostly live together in a learning-enriched environment in Wheeler Hall. They enjoy smaller classes, close interaction with faculty members and opportunities for independent studies. All honors students complete a study-abroad program during their matriculation.
Wilma Register Sharp graduated from Longwood in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in education. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in education from William & Mary and was a teacher for many years, working with gifted children. Marc Sharp, retired president of Greensprings Plantation Inc., part of the Bush Companies, attended the University of Virginia, where he took a hiatus to serve in the U.S. Army. After returning to U.Va., he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce and a Master of Science degree in accounting.
Marc Sharp said the Honors College exemplifies Longwood’s commitment to ensuring students explore a variety of academic subjects, a philosophy central to the liberal arts experience he has valued so deeply in his own life.
"Longwood is a perfect size for a lot of students—it is a community in every sense of the word," he said, adding that the resulting campus atmosphere supports academic exploration and "holds [students] to the principles of citizen leadership—preparing them for life with a very firm foundation."
"The Sharps are citizens of the world and passionate, engaged members of their home community," said Dr. Alix Fink, dean of the Cormier Honors College. "In so many ways, they bear witness to the lifelong impact of a liberal arts education and serve as examples of citizen scholars for all Longwood students."
The Sharps have been deeply engaged citizen leaders in Tidewater. Their service has included advocacy for the construction of a new $200 million hospital in Williamsburg and active participation in the Williamsburg Community Foundation and Housing Partnerships Inc.
"The Sharps recognize that the Cormier Honors College is uniquely positioned not only to transform the lives of the high-achieving students who live and study together but also to lift up and strengthen the entire university," said Courtney Hodges, vice president for institutional advancement. "Their leadership will leave a lasting legacy on the campus culture of this institution."