Bill and Gayle Sheeder 940

In Memoriam: Former Dean of Students William 'Bill' Sheeder

By Robert C. Jones Jr.

In Memoriam: Former Dean of Students William 'Bill' Sheeder

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
Over his more than two decades at the U, the dean of students from 1976-1989 always put students first.

During his four years as a student at Ottawa University in Kansas, William “Bill” Sheeder served as president of the student council, was a distinctive tenor and lead vocalist on the school’s traveling singing team, captured the “Mr. OU” crown, and participated in a multitude of other activities.

He was the quintessential definition of an “engaged college student,” and the extracurricular activities that augmented his academic studies benefited him well after his graduation, giving him the insight and understanding to relate to generations of students during an administrative career at the University of Miami that spanned more than two decades.

Sheeder, who served as UM’s dean of students from 1976 to 1989 and held various other leadership roles at the University before that, always adhering to a philosophy of putting students first, passed away on April 1 in Huntersville, North Carolina. He was 80.

“Dad loved students and enjoyed being an advocate for them,” says Sheeder’s daughter, Lynn Claunch.
“Multifaceted” and “intellectually curious” is how Jim Yasser, UM’s Student Government president during the 1969-70 academic year, remembers Sheeder.

“Bill was extraordinarily adroit in establishing effective working relationships with student leadership,” Yasser recalled. “A clumsy bureaucrat would have quickly alienated the student leadership. Bill understood that honesty and openness were the keys to the development of such relationships, particularly during those unpredictable and turbulent times.”

Sheeder arrived at UM in 1966 as director of the then-Whitten Student Union. Over the next 23 years, he took on greater responsibilities, overseeing campus sports and recreation, women’s collegiate athletics, and the Rathskeller in his role as director of student activities.

He became assistant vice president for student affairs in 1973, a title he retained after he was promoted to dean of students in 1976. In his dual role, Sheeder oversaw the Greek system, orientation, student development, and university chaplains. He also served as the University’s ombudsperson, helping to resolve academic, financial, and personal problems for students.

“He was greatly respected by students and faculty alike in those roles,” said Bill Butler, who was vice president for student affairs at UM from 1965 to 1998 and had worked previously with Sheeder at Ohio University. At the University of Miami, the two formed part of what was known as “The Bills Fishing Group,” six UM employees—four of them named Bill—who regularly went on fishing trips to the Florida Keys.

It was at UM that Sheeder met and fell in love with his second wife, Gayle, an administrator at the University for 44 years. They were active members of the Iron Arrow Honor Society and were Hurricane football season ticket holders for more than four decades.

Sheeder loved UM, said Claunch, who as a little girl spent many Saturdays on the Coral Gables campus with her father and sister, Traci.

Claunch attended and graduated from UM while her father was employed at the institution. “Seeing him on campus, hearing him give speeches, and watching him from afar—I was just so proud and honored to be his daughter,” she said. “He was always a man of integrity.”

Sheeder loved boating and would often go on excursions aboard his vessel, Finally. He also had a passion for convertibles, owning several of them, including two Chevrolet Corvettes, over the years.
Sheeder retired in 1989.

He is survived by his wife, Gayle; daughters Lynn Claunch and Traci Gant; grandchildren Steven, Bethany, Carissa, Taylor, and Benjamin; siblings Richard (wife Erin) and Clare (husband Don); sister-in-law Jonna; and several nieces and nephews.