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A Tribute to Sherry Wagner-Henry

By Wisconsin School of Business

June 10, 2020

An image of Sherry Wagner-Henry smiling next to a podium
Sherry Wagner-Henry’s passion, vision, and enthusiasm made a lasting impact on all who knew her. Her legacy will carry on through the work and lives she touched.

Sherry Wagner-Henry, director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration and a beloved mentor, colleague, and friend to many, passed away unexpectedly on May 30, 2020.

Sherry was unapologetically passionate about her work, which positioned her uniquely at the intersection of business, higher education, culture, and the arts. She came to UW–Madison in 2012, bringing a distinctive skill set and valued perspective to the Wisconsin School of Business.

Sherry had previously spent 14 years at the University of Minnesota, where she directed graduate programs for the College of Continuing Education and the Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership. She earned her MBA in Arts Administration and Marketing from Illinois State University and was a Follett Fellow in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management at Columbia College-Chicago.

Sherry Wagner-Henry
Sherry Wagner-Henry

Always one to innovate, Sherry loved to try new ways to engage students so they would become successful and impactful leaders. Most recently, Sherry spearheaded and launched a new one-year Master of Arts-Business: Arts and Creative Enterprise Leadership degree to provide an arts-based business curriculum to creative professionals, and to provide access to business professionals who seek arts-based coursework and social sector leadership perspectives. Her spirit will shine on as the inaugural class begins in Fall 2020.

Sherry believed in the power of collaboration and partnerships, working across public and private sectors, celebrating diversity, and spanning global boundaries. Her passion and curiosity drove several new ideas and initiatives at WSB, including the development of a nonprofit board leadership class, a yearlong impact consulting course for MBA students, a WSB Artist-in-Residency program, and many more.

From a research perspective, Sherry was passionate about the topic of community and creative placemaking, and infused its concepts into her classes and applied learning delivery, including the Arts Business Research Symposium, which she launched in 2014.

Her attention also extended beyond the borders of the Bolz Center, and she worked tirelessly with the UW Division of the Arts, Association of Arts Administration Educators, Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, and United States Institute for Theatre Technology. It is through this work that she was able to create connections and collaborate with, and for, those in her fields. Named the 2020 Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts recipient by the UW Division of the Arts, this was just one of the many recognitions and accolades that grace her CV.

Sherry’s passing is a profound personal and professional loss for many. She impacted all who knew her in the effortless way she shared her passion, vision, and joy.

“How can you not know you’re meeting a very special person when smiling Sherry greets you,” reflect Jack and Marian Bolz, benefactors of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration. “Her enthusiasm, knowledge, and spirit made us feel very comfortable that the legacy of the Bolz Center will carry on. She was a good friend and we will miss her terribly.”

A memorial website offers a place for colleagues, students, alumni, friends, and family to share memories, tributes, and pictures of Sherry.

Affectionately described by many as a “creative force of nature,” Sherry’s legacy will carry on through the work and lives of all she touched.